Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fake California ‘earthquake warning’ creates confusion, panic on Twitter and Facebook. "80 HOUR MAJOR EARTHQUAKE WARNING; 6.0 to 7.0 earthquake likely in S California in the next 80 hrs," a message from Twitter user "Quakeprediction" said. It was 'retweeted' by more than 1,000 people, causing it to spread quickly over the popular social networking website and leaving people wondering if it is real.
The rumor even forced the California Emergency Management Agency to put out a special statement to say it is a hoax. "Although the broad scientific community has been working relentlessly to give us better information about earthquakes and their behavior, being able to predict when earthquakes will strike is not something they can do at this point." The purpose of the "Quakeprediction" Twitter account and its website appears to be to cause panic and confusion, as the person (or people) behind it have spread numerous false warnings over the past year. It regularly 'predicts' major earthquakes to hit California, but none have turned out to be true. Scientists estimate that over the next 30 years the probability of a major earthquake occurring in the San Francisco Bay area is 67% and 60% in Southern California.

**How long do you listen to someone before your attention wanders?
Someone told me 16 minutes.
In this life, if you can’t explain yourself in 16 minutes you’re in a lot of trouble.**
Tony Bennet

This morning -

Yesterday -
9/28/10 -

Tropical depression 16 was 97 nmi S of Havana, Cuba.

Tropical depression 16 - The low-level center consists of a broad area of light winds and nearly uniform pressure. Indeed, winds were 20KT or less within 100 miles or more of the center. CLEARLY...THIS IS NOT A CLASSICAL TROPICAL CYCLONE and the MAXIMUM WINDS ARE LOCATED SOME 200 N MI SOUTHEAST OF THE CENTER. The system may have been a marginal tropical storm earlier Tuesday. Models show what appears to be a new baroclinic development to the north replacing the former tropical cyclone, so dissipation is expected by 72 hours. Unless the circulation of the cyclone tightens up soon, the exact track of the center across Cuba and Florida will be relatively unimportant since the strongest winds and heaviest rains will occur well removed from the center and over the eastern semicircle.
Tropical depression 16 continues to have a structure more characteristic of a Western North Pacific/North Indian Ocean monsoon depression. The strongest winds and convection are 250-300 miles away from the center in the southeastern quadrant. The center appears to re-form from time to time. Neither the environment nor the current structure are conducive for significant strengthening.

FLORIDA is expecting heavy rain and a tropical storm. South Florida's UNUSUALLY dry wet season is expected to end today as Tropical Storm Nicole dumps as much as eight inches of rain ripped by winds of up to 45 mph. Although a flood watch is in effect for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, water managers say South Florida is well positioned for the deluge because of this summer's lower than average rainfall. Lake Okeechobee is at 14.02 feet, a few inches below average for this time of year. The heaviest rains - as much as four to eight inches - are expected south and southeast of Lake Okeechobee, especially in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. "The system is right where we want it."
As of 8 p.m.Tuesday, the storm was 325 miles south-southwest of Miami and moving north-northeast at 8 mph. The storm will cross over South Florida this afternoon. However, most of the strong winds and heavy rains are occurring a couple of hundred miles to the east and southeast of the center of the storm. A tropical storm warning remains in effect from Jupiter Inlet south to the Keys and a tropical storm watch north to Sebastian Inlet, as well as for southwest Florida. The National Weather Service is predicting that, at most, sustained winds in Palm Beach County will be in the 25 mph to 35 mph range, with gusts up to 45 mph. The Coast Guard predicts the storm will pass just north of Miami this afternoon, with winds of 35-40 knots.
The biggest unknown - perhaps the most troublesome - is the storm's speed. The speed of the storm is crucial, not only for predicting how much rain will fall but for how well the complex system of locks and canals will handle the water. Storms that quickly dump huge amounts of rain often cause more problems than storms that move slowly with a steady rainfall. "Every storm has its own signature." There is no way to know now if the storm will stall or keep moving when it hits land.


COLUMBIA - A landslide buried about 30 people on a highway in northwestern Colombia. It was unlikely there would be survivors found. "It has been confirmed that about 30 people have been buried in the rubble from this landslide (in Antioquia department), which is quite large." A torrent of 100,000 cubic meters of earth swept onto a highway in the town of Giraldo, which leads to the city of Medellin.

Mexico mudslide toll not as bad as first feared - At least 11 people missing in stricken village. Early reports from officials Tuesday of 300 houses buried in a landslide, with hundreds, possibly thousands of villagers swept away in a landslide appeared by early evening to have been wildly wrong. "The toll is four dead and 12 missing. Three or four houses buried in the mud. There may be more but I don't expect the number to rise much." At a later news conference, 11 people were said to be missing with no confirmed deaths.
State and federal officials had been alerted to the supposed disaster by calls from panicked village official at 4 a.m., who reported the mudslide had buried much of the village. Hundreds of soldiers and rescue workers were dispatched. Network television crews and newspaper teams scrambled by road and air. "It was dark when we got the alert. As long as we couldn't verify the information we had to accept the alarm as real."
Southern Mexico has been drenched in the heaviest rainy season in seven decades. Hurricane Karl last week and Tropical Storm Matthew had dropped a lot of rain on Oaxaca and neighboring states. Swollen rivers have flooded towns and collapsed bridges. Mudslides made other roads impassable. Foul weather prevented helicopters from reaching the village. Everyone expected the worst. "We were all sleeping and all I heard was a loud noise and when I left the house I saw that the hill had fallen. We were left without electricity, without telephone and we couldn't help them. There was no way to move the mud." By midafternoon, soldiers had reached the village by foot. The possible death toll dropped quickly to seven and then to four, with none confirmed. Two houses were completely buried, two other partially buried and 30 more damaged. Officials couldn't explain the discrepancies.
Suffering along with Mexico has been much of Central America, where flooding and landslides in recent months have killed more than 300 people, left tens of thousands homeless and caused billions of dollars in damage.

INDONESIA - Two man-made lakes that have long assisted flood control efforts in Pamulang, South Tangerang, are close to collapse amid the ongoing extreme weather, threatening tens of thousands of residents and their houses in the lower areas from Bambu Apus in Ciputat to Ulujami in Tangerang. Friday, the lake overflowed several times, obstructing parts of the road and paralyzing traffic in the municipality. Residents fleeing the lake’s lower areas called on the South Tangerang administration to pay serious attention to repairing the cracking embankment to prevent it from bursting.
Authorities in Jakarta, South Tangerang municipality and Tangerang regency were urged to coordinate emergency measures to evacuate residents living in lower areas in an anticipation of a possible collapse of the Sasak Tinggi embankment. “If the dike collapses, a flash flood will certainly sweep away thousands of houses and could kill thousands of people living near the Bambu Apus and Ulujami housing areas in Tangerang."
The two lakes were created during the Dutch colonial era to control flooding from the Krukut River, but no measures have since been taken by authorities to convert them into functioning dams. Authorities predicted that the lake’s embankment would collapse soon if it continues to rain heavily over the next few days. People in Pamulang were relatively safe, at least for a short-term, because despite the overflows, the Pamulang lake’s dike has remained strong.
The two lakes have been overflowing because they can no longer intercept water from heavy downpours, partially because of the conversion of 4,200 hectares along Krukut River for housing estates over the past decade. “The 60,000-hectare area along the Krukut River no longer has the open spaces to serve as water catchment areas capable of preventing flooding during the rainy season."


CALIFORNIA - Los Angeles baked in RECORD TEMPERATURES on Monday, bringing sweltering scenes to the US West Coast metropolis nearly a month after the end of the main August heat. As firefighters remained on alert in tinderbox conditions around the outskirts of the city, temperatures hit 45C [113F] in downtown, the HIGHEST SINCE RECORDS BEGAN in 1877. Streets remained unusually empty, as local residents sought the shelter of air-conditioned shops, offices and homes. "There was a spike around noon that bumped temperatures up." The old record of 44C set on June 26, 1990, was beaten shortly after midday. Los Angeles firefighters have been on high alert for days for wildfires which can take hold rapidly in the brush and dry woodlands which surround the city. Although temperatures were high Monday, there was little wind - giving some hope that any blaze would not spread so easily.
The heatwave comes after a cooler-than-usual summer for Los Angeles, which typically enjoys 300 days of sun a year, albeit with summer temperatures more typically between 20C [68F] and 30C. The heatwave, which began at the weekend, is set to last days more.

A decline in pollinating insects in India is resulting in reduced vegetable yields and could limit people's access to a nutritional diet, a study warns. Indian researchers said there was a "clear indication" that pollinator abundance was linked to productivity.
Globally, pollination is estimated to be worth £141bn ($224bn) each year.
Each year, India produces about 7.5 million tonnes of vegetables. This accounts for about 14% of the global total, making the nation second only to China in the world's vegetable production league table. Despite the concern, no study had been done to assess directly the scale of the decline in natural pollinators. "The ideal situation would have been if we were able to compare the overall pollinator abundance over the years, but that kind of data was just not available." Instead, they compared the yields of pollinator-dependent crops with pollinator-independent crops. "Data shows that the yields of pollinator-independent crops have continued to increase. On the other hand, pollinator-dependent crops have levelled off." Certain crops do not depend on insects for pollination, including cereals. Instead, the plants used other mechanism - such as relying on the wind to carry the pollen.
However, many vegetables - such as pumpkin, squash, cucumber and gherkin - were reliant on insects, such as bees.
The fall in yield per hectare was against the backdrop of a greater area being turned over to crop production each year. The exact cause for the decline of pollinators, especially bees, still remains a mystery. In an attempt to identify an underlying cause for the pollinator decline, the team is carrying out a series of field experiments, comparing conventional agriculture with "ecological farming". Defined as "a farming system that aims to develop an integrated, humane, environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural production system", ecological farming is almost a hybrid of conventional and organic farming, looking to capitalise on returns from modern farming methods as well as drawing on natural ecological services, such as pollination. "There is an obvious indication that within the ecological farming setting, there is pollinator abundance. This method typically provides the habitats for natural pollinators - this is the way forward." India is facing a decline in natural pollinators, as ecological farming was only practiced on about 10-20% of the country's arable land.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that of the slightly more than 100 crop species that provide 90% of food supplies for 146 countries, 71 are bee-pollinated, primarily by wild bees, and a number of others are pollinated by other insects. "There has been a debate within India about this, but most of the cereal crops are not pollinator dependent, so if there is a pollination crisis it is not going to affect food security as such.
What is going to be affected is nutritional security." Vegetables such as pumpkins, squash, cucumber, and gherkins are "quite substantial" in terms of delivering necessary nutrients to the population. "But there are many other vegetable crops that are eaten by people who are around the poverty level, so-called minor vegetable crops like eggplant, for which is there is no or very little data." In industrialised nations, such as the US and in Europe, many farms employ the services of commercial hives to pollinate fruit trees and food crops, and ensure they harvest adequate yields. But the use of domesticated bees in this context was not widespread in South Asia.
In 2007, about one third of the US domesticated bee population was wiped out as a result of a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, with some commercial hive owners losing up to 90% of their bees. The exact cause remains a mystery, and last year a number of UK agencies began a £10m project to help identify the main threat to bees and other insect pollinators. A number of possible causes have been suggested, including the misuse of pesticides, habitat loss and fragmentation, and the spread of parasites and diseases.
"There are many kinds of natural pollinators. As a result, we - not only in India, but in other parts of the world - do not really know what is happening to natural pollinator populations."


Flu activity is showing a late-season flourish in some parts of the Southern Hemisphere, such as Chile, where levels in some areas exceed last year's pandemic peak, and in parts of Australia. Flu activity in several of Chile's regions equals or is slightly higher than the country's 2009 winter pandemic wave, with the disease hitting children under age 15 the hardest, followed by those ages 15 to 64. The 2009 H1N1 virus is cocirculating in Chile alongside seasonal flu viruses. However, limited data from neighboring Argentina suggests low levels of flu, mainly influenza B, between June and late August.
Health officials in Australia have reported steady increases in flu activity since late August, though at levels well below the past three influenza season. Activity is widespread in Victoria in South Australia state and West Australia state, where the 2009 H1N1 and influenza B viruses are cocirculating. New Zealand also had a late start to its flu season, but activity, most of it 2009 H1N1 flu, has dipped below seasonal baselines.
India and Thailand continue to report significant flu activity. Though activity in India has been geographically widespread, with 17 states and territories reporting new cases, activity is stable or declining in all but a few states, suggesting that national activity may have peaked. The 2009 H1N1 virus has been India's predominant circulating strain. The country is still reporting many cases and deaths.
Meanwhile, southern China, Hong Kong, and to a lesser extent northern China have reported increased circulation of the seasonal influenza A (H3N1) virus. Officials in Hong Kong have linked increased H3N2 detections with a steady rise in doctor's visits for flulike illness. Thailand is reporting active transmission of mainly the 2009 H1N1 virus, along with some H3N2 and influenza B strains. The rise in flu activity is occurring at a time when increasing flu activity isn't surprising.