Friday, January 14, 2011

**The time is always right to do what is right.**
Martin Luther King Jr.

This morning -

Yesterday -
1/13/11 -

A powerful undersea quake hit overnight off New Caledonia’s Loyalty Islands group, which was also simultaneously bearing the brunt of destructive winds brought by tropical cyclone Vania. The epicentre was located near the island of Maré in the Loyalty group, about 28 km north-east of the capital Nouméa. The depth of the temblor’s epicentre was located at a shallow five kilometres under sea level. No immediate damage was reported. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre did not issue a tsunami alert following the event, which was also followed by several aftershocks of magnitudes above 5 on the Richter’s scale.
Meanwhile, also during the same night, another quake hit in New Zealand, off the coast of the North Island, some 420 km east of Auckland. No damage was immediately reported either, even though the temblor, at a depth of some 31 km under sea level, was reported to have been felt by the population.
The fault line located between Vanuatu and New Caledonia has been the scene of an INTENSE AND SUSTAINED SEISMIC ACTIVITY SINCE CHRISTMAS: the last tremor had occurred on January 10, 2011, with a recorded magnitude of 6.4 on the Richter scale. The previous day, another quake shook the same area with a magnitude of 6.6. The new episode of intense activity began with a 7.1 on 12/26 with several quakes posting a magnitude above 6. The 26 December 2010 quake triggered a brief regional tsunami alert for New aledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.


ITALY - Mount Etna, the famous Sicilian volcano, turned on the fireworks Wednesday as it shot lava hundreds of feet into the air. Volcanic tremors at Mount Etna were detected around 4 p.m. EST on Tuesday. The tremors peaked the next morning and lava began erupting at the Southeast Crater, about 4,500 feet high. The crater pit overflowed with lava and ash plumes spewed into the air, which forced a local airport to halt service. The ash plumes stopped after nearly 12 hours. But more eruptions could be on the way.
"This eruption is very similar to more than 200 episodes of lava fountaining at the summit craters of Mount Etna - including 66 from the Southeast Crater in the year 2000. The same vent that erupted last night already produced nearly identical — though longer-lasting — episodes in September and November 2007 and most recently on May 10, 2008."
Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and one of the world's most well-known. While 2010 was an exceptionally calm year for Etna, it is nearly constantly active and there is rarely a full year that passes without some eruptive activity. "We expected Etna to return to activity in this period. There had been lots of premonitory signals." Two episodes of much weaker activity at the same vent that erupted last night — one on Dec. 23 2010, and the next on Jan. 2 and 3 of 2011 — suggested that a larger eruption was on the way. "Things did accelerate maybe a tiny little bit faster than we had imagined, but the evolution was very logical, and again, very similar to many events in the past." Etna's lava fountaining may go on for weeks or even months, similar to past episodes such as the series of 66 lava fountains during 2000, which lasted seven months.
At a height of 10,900 feet, Etna looms over the city of Catania. As active as the volcano is, it's not a pressing danger to locals, and no damage or injuries were reported or expected from yesterday's eruption. Etna's most violent eruption was in 1669, when 15,000 people were killed.

RUSSIA - Ebeko Volcano - An ash cloud that erupted on Thursday from the Ebeko Volcano on the Kuril Islands in the Russian Far East could threaten the health of local residents, a spokesman for the Emergencies Ministry said. The volcano, which lies 8 km to the north west of the town of Severo-Kurilsk on Paramushir Island, ejected a 400-meter-high cloud of ash and steam. "There is a faint odor of hydrogen sulfide in the city." The gas concentration was not life threatening. Locals have been recommended to wear gauze masks while outdoors. There have been two known eruptions of the Ebeko volcano; one in 1859 and the last in 1934. The resulting sulfur emissions caused mass poisoning among local residents and loss of cattle.
Volcano Kizimen, located in the Kamchatka Peninsula, spewed towering columns of steam and debris as high as 10 km, blanketing the nearby city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky with a thin layer of ash, about 165 miles (266 km) away on Thursday.
The volcanic ash fell in the villages Anavgai and Esso, which are approximately 136 km away from the volcano. The ash did not pose threat to the health of local residents. The Kamchatka Peninsula has a high density of volcanoes, flanked by large volcanic belts containing about 160 volcanoes, with 29 of them still active.


INDONESIA - Extreme weather going on in East Nusa Tenggara over the past few days caused whirlwind and huge waves to hit most of the coastal area. Scores of homes are destroyed, forcing hundreds of residents to seek refuge. The local administration has deployed emergency response teams to evacuate people and supply food. In Kupang Regency, dozens of houses are seriously damaged as an effect of whirlwind on Wednesday night, Jan 12. Total losses from the disaster have yet to be calculated. In Kupang Municipality, a similar incident broke down a post office. Meanwhile, dozens of homes in Kelurahan Oepura, Meulafa Subdistrict, vanished due to landslide. In Maumere, Sikka Regency, and Nagekeo Regency, tens of houses were swapped into the sea after a series of waves of more than 3 meters in height thumped the area. Around 500 residents fled their dwellings.

Cyclone VINCE was 564 nmi W of Broome, Australia.
Cyclone 07P ( Zelia) was 410 nmi NE of Cairns, Australia.
Cyclone VANIA was 1039 nmi NNW of Auckland, New Zealand.

INDONESIA - Warm waters near Indonesia’s southern coast have brought Tropical Cyclone Vince to within 840 kilometers off the coast of Cilacap, Central Java. The storm will bring strong winds, high tides and rains to Bali, Java and Sumatra later this week. “Although the cyclone is heading towards Australia, the cyclone’s impact to Indonesia has to be determined." The Australian government’s Bureau of Meteorology reported that the cyclone was first sighted on Monday off the coast of western Australia. On Thursday, The Associated Press reported that the cyclone was expected to make landfall on the northwestern coast of Western Australia with maximum sustained winds of 121 kilometers per hour and gusts up to 148 kilometers per hour. In addition to winds, the cyclone was expected to bring torrential rainfall and dangerous surf conditions to the region.

New cyclone will not affect Queensland, Australia - Forecasters say tropical cyclone Zelia which has formed in the Coral Sea will have no impact on flood devastated Queensland. Tropical Cyclone Zelia was located about 445km northeast of Cairns at 1pm (AEST) on Friday and was expected to track southeast, away from Queensland's coastline. "It is moving towards Vanuatu and well away from the Queensland coast." Zelia is currently listed as a category 1 cyclone but is expected to develop into a category 3 system by Sunday, generating winds of more than 165km/h. The cyclone was not expected to have any impact on Queensland's flood-devastated southern and central regions. "There is a very low risk of anything affecting Queensland."

Cyclone Vania causes carnage in the Pacific - Trees have been flattened, roofs ripped off buildings and powerlines torn down as Tropical Cyclone Vania batters the Pacific. Winds peaked at more than 200 kilometres per hour as the cyclone approached New Caledonia today, after causing carnage in Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila, earlier in the week. "It's now a severe tropical cyclone so it's one to definitely watch."
Islands off the coast of New Caledonia were on high alert today and residents were preparing to be buffeted in the nation's capital, Noumea. New Zealand could feel the effects of the cyclone next week, with hurricane-force winds and flooding possibly occurring in low-lying regions at the top of the North Island.


BRAZIL - More than 500 people are now known to have died in floods in south-eastern Brazil, making them THE WORST NATURAL DISASTER IN THE COUNTRY'S HISTORY. Heavy rain has brought massive mudslides down on several towns, where thousands have been made homeless. Police say the number of dead is likely to rise further. The death toll has now surpassed that of mudslides in Caraguatatuba in Sao Paulo state in 1967 in which up to 430 people died.
If you reach the city centre of Teresopolis, you might not think the scale of destruction was too great, but on the outskirts and other neighbourhoods - such as Campo Grande and Posse - there is a sense of just how much was affected. In these places, there is mud everywhere - some of it more than 3m high. Cars are destroyed and turned upside down. The river that runs through the city is usually calm, but it is now completely flooded. Most of the houses destroyed were poor quality, made out of timber. Emergency services are everywhere. The Brazilian armed forces have brought in a field hospital and hundreds of people have taken refuge in the gymnasium in Teresopolis. But the number of injured is threatening to overwhelm the medical services. "There are three or four neighbourhoods that were totally destroyed in rural areas. There are hardly any houses standing there and all the roads and bridges are destroyed." "The weather forecast is not reassuring, and new mudslides could occur." (map & photos)
Tropical rains are common at this time of year in southeastern Brazil. But they were suddenly intensified by a cold front, bringing WEEKS WORTH OF WATER CRASHING DOWN IN A MATTER OF HOURS.

BRITAIN - Wales on flood alert as more extreme weather moves in. Wales is today bracing itself for yet more extreme weather with forecasts of five days of heavy rain raising fears rivers could burst their banks. After the misery caused by snow and ice, Environment Agency Wales was urging people to prepare for localised flooding after heavy downpours hit most of the nation yesterday. The worst affected areas were expected to receive more than 100mm by the end of the day and more rain – including up to another 60mm on Saturday – forecast into early next week. “There will be constant rain over the next couple of days in the west, with south-westerly winds affecting coastal areas. Tomorrow’s rainfall will clear to the south-east by the evening but this will be followed with showers on Friday and more persistent rain over the weekend. It’s going to be a very wet and windy few days.” Fields, roads and homes could be left under water as the ground is saturated from last month’s heavy snow thawing and recent rain.

AUSTRALIA - Four Victorian rivers are on major flood warnings as rain inundates the state's north and west, forcing hundreds to evacuate. The SES has issued warnings for the Loddon, Campaspe, Avoca, and Wimmera rivers, while residents in Glenorchy, Halls Gap, Great Western, Beaufort and Charlton have fled to relief centres as towns are cut off by flood waters. Late yeseterday morning, authorities ordered the entire town of Carisbrook to evacuate to nearby Maryborough.
Charlton residents are also facing a big challenge, with flood waters expected to inundate homes over the next 24 hours. About 25,000 properties are without power as heavy rainfall saturates the state. Several major roads in the state's west and north have been shut, with more closures likely.
The weather bureau warned some areas could cop 150mm of rain, while wind up to 120km/h is expected to lash elevated areas. Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat can expect wind up to 90km/h. Towns along the Loddon, Avoca and Wimmera rivers have also been put on notice that flash floods may be worse than those that struck in September.
Evacuation warnings have been issued for the Victorian towns of Bridgewater, Carisbrook, Newbridge and Dadswell Bridge as floodwaters threaten property in the state's northwest.
Residents have already evacuated parts of Beaufort, Halls Gap, Great Western, Charlton and Glenorchy.
The State Emergency Service issued the additional warnings for Bridgewater, Carisbrook, Newbridge and Dadswell Bridge on Friday afternoon as the region records ITS HEAVIEST RAINS IN YEARS. Major flood warnings remain in place for the Avoca, Campaspe, Loddon and Wimmera rivers. Minor and moderate flood warnings are in place for several other rivers across the state, including the Maribyrnong, which runs through Melbourne's northern suburbs.

TASMANIA - Evacuations have been ordered in northern Tasmania amid fears that dams could burst and inundate homes. Police are evacuating some homes in Sprent, near Devonport, amid fears a dam could breach into the Clayton River Basin area. "Thankfully, the flooding in Tasmania remains moderate at this stage, and there are no reports of any injuries." Low-lying properties along the Penguin River, in the region between Devonport and Launceston, faced possible inundation on Friday morning. "(A) dam is overflowing. If it breaches the water will flow into the Penguin River and the surge may affect properties along that river." The Bureau of Meteorology said parts of the north had received their HIGHEST EVER DAILY RAINFALL FOR JANUARY - as much as 282 millimetres in the 24 hours up to 9am. A number of areas in north-west Tasmania had been pelted by more than 100mm of heavy rainfall. Lake Mackenzie, in the state’s Central Plateau, had received the most rainfall with a whopping 158mm collected overnight. “It’s all a result of the trough along the eastern seaboard of Australia that is causing problems everywhere. There has been flash flooding and certainly the rainfall rates that we’re seeing is VERY UNUSUAL, especially for January."


Blanket of ice: U.S. shivers as 49 of 50 states are hit by snow storms - The U.S. is shivering in the grips of a freezing winter with 49 of its 50 states now having snow on the ground. Two winter storms have dumped several inches of snow in some states and left flights grounded from Texas to the Carolinas. The only state to avoid the icy conditions was Florida, but even the Sunshine State suffered flight cancellations due to heavy fog.


SUNDIVING COMET STORM: 2010 ended with an UNPRECEDENTED flurry of small comets diving into the Sun. Researchers say this could herald a much larger comet still to come. The sun has just experienced a storm - not of explosive flares and hot plasma, but of icy comets. "The storm began on Dec 13th and ended on the 22nd. During that time, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) detected 25 comets diving into the sun. It was crazy!"
Sundiving comets are nothing new. SOHO typically sees one every few days, plunging inward and disintegrating as solar heat sublimes its volatile ices. "But 25 comets in just ten days, that's UNPRECEDENTED. The comets were 10-meter class objects, about the size of a room or a house. As comets go, these are considered small."
The comet-storm of Dec. 2010 might herald a much bigger sungrazer to come, something people could see with the naked eye, perhaps even during the day. "It's just a matter of time. We know there are some big ones out there." Comet Ikeya-Seki is a good example. In 1965 it appeared out of nowhere, dove toward the sun and swooped over the stellar surface only 450,000 km away. Because Ikeya-Seki's nucleus was large, about 5 km wide, it survived the encounter and emerged as one of the brightest comets of the past thousand years. Japanese observers saw it in broad daylight right beside the morning sun. People watched in amazement as Ikeya-Seki fell into at least three pieces before receding back into the solar system. Similar but lesser sungrazing comets were observed in 1843, 1882, 1963 and 1970.
These sungrazers are all related to one another. Astronomers call them the "Kreutz family". They probably came from the breakup of a single giant comet in the 12th century, probably the Great Comet of 1106. Ikeya-Seki-class comets and the smaller SOHO sungrazers are just different-sized fragments of that one progenitor. Researchers modeled the fragmentation of the Kreutz progenitor, and in a 2007 issue of the Astrophysical Journal suggested that MORE BIG CHUNKS ARE ON THE WAY. SOHO detected 69 sungrazers in 1997 compared to 200 sungrazers in 2010. "The increase is significant and cannot be accounted for by improvements in SOHO or the increasing skill of comet hunters."
Was Comet Ikeya-Seki preceded by a storm like that of Dec. 2010? No one knows. "SOHO wasn't around in 1965 to record how many little comets dove into the sun before Ikeya-Seki. It might be 200 comets per year - -or it could be 1000. Without more information, we can't know for sure how soon we might be privileged to see one of the real monsters."


Scientists Find Way to Stop Spread of Bird Flu in Chickens - Scientists have developed genetically modified chickens that don't transmit bird flu to other chickens.