Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010's world gone wild: - Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 - THE DEADLIEST YEAR IN MORE THAN A GENERATION. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined. "It just seemed like it was back-to-back and it came in waves. The term '100-year event' really lost its meaning this year." Even though many catastrophes have the ring of random chance, the hand of man made this a particularly deadly, costly, extreme and weird year. Poor construction and development practices conspire to make earthquakes more deadly than they need be. More people live in poverty in vulnerable buildings in crowded cities. That means that when the ground shakes, the river breaches, or the tropical cyclone hits, more people die. Disasters from the Earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes "are pretty much constant. All the change that's made is man-made."
Climate scientists say Earth's climate also is changing thanks to man-made global warming, bringing extreme weather, such as heat waves and flooding. In the summer, one weather system caused oppressive heat in Russia, while farther south it caused flooding in Pakistan that inundated 62,000 square miles, about the size of Wisconsin. That single heat-and-storm system killed almost 17,000 people, more people than all the worldwide airplane crashes in the past 15 years combined. "It's a form of suicide, isn't it? We build houses that kill ourselves (in earthquakes). We build houses in flood zones that drown ourselves. It's our fault for not anticipating these things. You know, this is the Earth doing its thing." The people who study disasters for a living say it would be wrong to chalk 2010 up to just another bad year. "The Earth strikes back in cahoots with bad human decision-making. It's almost as if the policies, the government policies and development policies, are helping the Earth strike back instead of protecting from it. We've created conditions where the slightest thing the Earth does is really going to have a disproportionate impact."
While the Haitian earthquake, Russian heat wave, and Pakistani flooding were the biggest killers, deadly quakes also struck Chile, Turkey, China and Indonesia in ONE OF THE MOST SEISMIC YEARS IN DECADES. Through mid-December there have been 20 earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher, compared to the normal 16. This year is tied for the most big quakes since 1970, but it is not a record. Nor is it a significantly above average year for the number of strong earthquakes. Flooding alone this year killed more than 6,300 people in 59 nations through September. Through Nov. 30, nearly 260,000 people died in natural disasters in 2010, compared to 15,000 in 2009. The last year in which natural disasters were this deadly was 1983 because of an Ethiopian drought and famine. 21,000 of this year's disaster deaths are weather related.
HOW EXTREME: After strong early year blizzards — nicknamed Snowmageddon — paralyzed the U.S. mid-Atlantic and record snowfalls hit Russia and China, the temperature turned to broil. The year may go down as the hottest on RECORD worldwide or at the very least in the top three. Los Angeles had its hottest day in RECORDED HISTORY on Sept. 27: 113 degrees. In May, 129 set a RECORD for Pakistan and may have been the hottest temperature RECORDED in an inhabited location. In the U.S. Southeast, the year began with freezes in Florida that had cold-blooded iguanas becoming comatose and falling off trees. Then it became the hottest summer on RECORD for the region. As the year ended, unusually cold weather was back in force. Northern Australia had the wettest May-October on RECORD, while the southwestern part of that country had its driest spell on RECORD. And parts of the Amazon River basin struck by drought hit their lowest water levels in RECORDED HISTORY.
Disasters caused $222 billion in economic losses in 2010 — more than Hong Kong's economy. That's more than usual, but not a record, because this year's disasters often struck poor areas without heavy insurance, such as Haiti.
HOW WEIRD: A volcano in Iceland paralyzed air traffic for days in Europe, disrupting travel for more than 7 million people. Other volcanoes in the Congo, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Philippines and Indonesia sent people scurrying for safety. New York City had a rare tornado. A nearly 2-pound hailstone that was 8 inches in diameter fell in South Dakota in July to set a U.S. RECORD. The storm that produced it was one of seven declared disasters for that state this year. There was not much snow to start the Winter Olympics in a relatively balmy Vancouver, British Columbia, while the U.S. East Coast was snowbound. In a 24-hour period in October, Indonesia got the trifecta of terra terror: a deadly magnitude 7.7 earthquake, a tsunami that killed more than 500 people and a volcano that caused more than 390,000 people to flee. That's after flooding, landslides and more quakes killed hundreds earlier in the year.
EVEN THE EXTREMES WERE EXTREME. This year started with a good sized El Nino weather oscillation that causes all sorts of extremes worldwide. Then later in the year, the world got the mirror image weather system with a strong La Nina, which causes a different set of extremes. Having a year with both a strong El Nino and La Nina is UNUSUAL. And in the United States, FEMA declared a RECORD number of major disasters, 79 as of Dec. 14. The average year has 34. A list of day-by-day disasters in 2010 runs 64 printed pages long. And that's just the "natural disasters." It was also a year of man-made technological catastrophes.

**The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.**
Albert Einstein

This morning -

Yesterday -
12/20/10 -

IRAN - At least seven people have died and hundreds more were injured in a 6.5-magnitude earthquake which struck southeastern Iran. The quake, with an epicentre near the town of Hosseinabad in Kerman province, was followed by 22 tremors, including one of 5.0 magnitude. "So far damages have been concentrated in villages in the areas of Sahraj and seven dead and hundreds of injured have been removed from the debris. Considering the damages the death toll is expected to rise. The quake struck at 10.12pm on Monday (5.42am AEDT Tuesday) and was even felt in the bordering province of Sistan-Baluchestan.
Communication lines in the area were down. The quake-affected region was largely mountainous and hence access to it was cut off, making it difficult for relief to reach the victims. Hosseinabad lies near the city of Bam, the site of the deadliest earthquake to hit Iran in recent times. The 6.3-magnitude temblor in December 2003 killed 31,000 people - about a quarter of Bam's population - and destroyed the city's ancient mud-built citadel. Iran sits astride several major fault lines in the Earth's crust and is prone to frequent earthquakes, many of which have been devastating.


INDONESIA - Mt Bromo still emits thick smoke into the air although its status has been dropped off to 'standby'. The volcano, which nestles on Probolinggo, East Java, is a top tourist attraction known for its "sea of sands". "Dense smoke is still seen on Bromo, drifting to the east and northeast off Bromo at the heights of around 400 meters to 800 meters." The situation is far from dangerous. However, the safety zone remains at the vicinity of 2 kilometers from the crater's peak. The Geological Disaster Management and Volcanology Center lowered the status of Mt Bromo to 'standby' on December 6, 2010. Nevertheless, the status will be revised if the volcano resumes it's rumbles.

-Tropical storm OMEKA was 992 nmi W of Honolulu, Hawaii.
-30% chance of a system in the Atlantic becoming a tropical cyclone.

Tropical Storm Omeka - An out-of-season tropical cyclone has formed west of Hawaii. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Omeka was located 505 miles south of Midway Atoll, or about 1,210 miles west of Lihue, Kauai. The tropical storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour. As of 11 p.m. Sunday, Omeka was moving northeast at 14 miles per hour. The storm was expected to turn to the north, which would take it into cooler waters. It is forecast to be a tropical depression within 36 hours, and a remnant low in about 48 hours.
While this storm is forming after the November 30 end of hurricane season in the Central Pacific, there have been three other out-of-season cyclones. Tropical storm Paka formed south of the Hawaiian Islands in December 2-6, 1997. It crossed the International Dateline and strengthened into Super Typhoon Paka, which caused major damage when it hit Guam December 17 and 18, 1997. The Hurricane Center's archives also show a tropical cyclone that formed 40 miles southwest of Lanai on Dec. 23, 1902, and another that formed far to the south of South Point exactly two years later.


AUSTRALIA - The crisis is over for residents of Western Australia's Gascoyne region following the WORST FLOODING THERE ON RECORD, but they face a massive clean-up as waters recede. Reinforced levees prevented the overflowing Gascoyne River from swamping the town of Carnarvon, but surrounding plantations and pastoral stations have been hammered with big livestock and crop losses.
Residents who had been evacuated could be allowed back to assess damage and begin the clean-up tomorrow or Thursday, depending on water levels and road damage. Carnarvon, about 900km north of Perth, received ITS ANNUAL RAINFALL IN 22 HOURS during the weekend. Some people in outlying areas were rescued by helicopter after sitting it out on rooftops, while a caravan park in Carnarvon was evacuated after it was swamped late on Sunday. "Probably flood mitigation methods would not have stopped this flood from spreading, but there may well be some scope for doing further works. I would suggest hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars of loss in horticultural production." With about 105 pastoral stations in the broader Gascoyne area, livestock losses could he high."Some quite harrowing stories of people spending the night on the roof, realising that at the same time their livestock were basically drowning or being swept away." It's feared that many of the region's historic pastoral homesteads, many made of mud bricks, could have been irreparably damaged by floodwaters.

VIETNAM - 47 Vietnamese sailors are missing, most of them from a cargo ship and a fishing vessel, and six others have been confirmed dead after storms hit the South China Sea and since bad weather and strong winds hit Vietnam's coast last Thursday.

CALIFORNIA - A powerful winter storm continues to pound Southern California causing flooding and evacuations in areas hardest hit by the rain. On Monday night, officials evacuated residents in Wrightwood due to heavy rain threatening homes. More than 10 inches of rain has fallen in some mountain areas since the storm started on Thursday. Forecasters say the worst is yet to come as the National Weather Service predicts heavier rains to hit Southern California tonight and Wednesday. After a brief respite on Thursday and Friday, more rain is in the forecast for the Christmas weekend.
The rain caused major traffic jams on the roads Monday night. Downtown Los Angeles has received more than 5 inches of rain since the storms moved into the area Thursday prompting officials to issue a flood warning. More than 6 inches of rain has fallen in the foothill communities near the Station Fire burn area, and The San Gabriel mountains have received as much as 10 inches. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch that will remain in effect until Wednesday night. Some isolated areas could reach 20 inches of rainfall by Wednesday.
Forecasters say the storms could be THE LARGEST SYSTEM THE REGION HAS SEEN IN A DECADE. The storm system is being caused by subtropical moisture that is stretching from Asia. That plume of moisture is mixing with a low-pressure system to create heavy rain.


Snow strands Christmas travellers across north Europe - Snow and ice have stranded tens of thousands of would-be travellers across northern Europe. The UK, France and Germany are among the worst-hit areas, with forecasters warning freezing weather may continue. Hundreds of passengers desperate to return home for Christmas camped overnight at the world's busiest transport hub, London's Heathrow. More than 1,000 flights were cancelled at German airports in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin. But some of the most dramatic scenes took place in the British capital where, more than 48 hours after the last heavy snowfall in London, angry passengers with tickets turned up at Heathrow airport only to be turned away from the already overcrowded hub. All short-haul flights had been cancelled and only one runway was in operation for the few flights that managed to take leave. Officials warned that despite relaxation of night-flight operations in an effort to loosen the backlog, it might take until after Christmas to do so, and perhaps longer if more snow falls.The chaos at Heathrow had a knock-on effect in other international hubs where stranded passengers began to accept the possibility of not being with their loved ones over the Christmas period. Others expressed disbelief that such a short burst of snow could have such a great impact. "We keep being told that London never has snow, it's never a problem!" Airport operators explained that the sheer volume of snow - five inches in just one hour on Saturday - led to extensive ice buildup around aircraft on the ground and that safety concerns remained their priority. The treacherous conditions are costing British Airways some £65m (£100m; 75m euros) a day, analysts say, and the weather is severely impacting UK business in general: the number of customers in UK shops is down 25% at what is normally one of the most intense shopping periods of the year.
There were severe delays on the Eurostar rail service between the UK and France and Belgium, and Thalys trains between France and Belgium were also affected as speed restrictions hit rail travel in England and northern France. Lines of delayed passengers snaked for several hundred metres outside London's St Pancras station, and Eurostar - which has been turning away even those with bookings - urged travellers to cancel or postpone their trips if possible. German rail services were also affected. Heavy snow in Berlin caused problems for commuter trains and on the roads. Dangerous conditions were also reported on roads near Cologne.
Dutch authorities imposed a 50km/h (30mph) speed limit on a number of motorways, while icy, snowy roads also caused traffic problems across Sweden. As a sign of how bad conditions were, even in Moscow, where 9,000 snow ploughs were in action, some roads were at a virtual standstill. (map)


-Kroger Co. is recalling select packages of pet food sold in some of its retail stores because the products may contain aflatoxin, which poses a health risk to pets. Kroger stores in the following states are included in this recall: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.