Sunday, January 2, 2011

Earth's atmosphere showed a mean streak in 2010, and there may be more to come. Along the East Coast of the United States, buried under the avalanche of this week's blizzard in New York City, are the memories of "Snowmageddon" -- the big Nor'easter that in the first week of last February dumped RECORD snowfalls on major cities in the Mid-Atlantic region, from Wilmington to Washington. In Spring, great downpours of rain brought floods across the Southeast, including Oklahoma and Arkansas, but especially Tennessee, where 33 people died and damages were estimated at nearly $2 billion in Nashville alone.
And then came summer, with heat-waves across much of the Northern Hemisphere. Nineteen nations recorded new RECORD high temperatures -- including a reading of 128.3 degrees F in Pakistan, the hottest ever in Asia. Russia suffered through its hottest year in 1,000 years of history. In Moscow, at least 10,000 people died from the heat. The wheat crop was heavily damaged and wildfires spread across the country. In the United States, intense heat spread from Maine to Pennsylvania in July and across the Southeast in August. In the Southwest, continuing drought shrank Lake Mead, the enormous impoundment behind Hoover Dam that waters much of the region, to a fraction of its former self. In Pakistan, monsoonal rains brought floods of staggering proportion, destroying bridges and roads and dams, and leaving thousands dead and millions homeless.
The year's wild, dangerous weather is leading many climate scientists to see a pattern. They are beginning to wonder whether the climate system is showing signs of instability brought about by its changing chemical composition, by the added heat and water vapor, and by changing circulation patterns prompted by the loss of Arctic sea ice. A pattern of more frequent weather extremes is a feature that is common to most global model simulations of the future in our changing climate. If they are right, of course, 2010 could mark the early stages of a longer trend of more frequent dangerous weather. As the New Year approached, thousands of residents in Queensland, northeastern Australia, found themselves stranded by floodwaters. Queensland's premier called it "a DISASTER ON AN UNPRECEDENTED SCALE," which seemed to be a pretty good epithet for the year as a whole.

**Be at war with your vices,
at peace with your neighbors,
and let every new year find you a better man.**
Benjamin Franklin

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
1/1/2011 -

12/31/2010 -

ARGENTINA -Northern Argentina hit by 7.0 quake. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, and the deep quake occurred at a depth of 583.6 kilometres (362.6 miles).

Pending threat of enormous earthquakes - A physicist and author of "Physics of the Future" warned world citizens New Year's Eve morning on Good Morning America about the pending threat of enormous earthquakes. "In our life time, we could very well see one of these cities destroyed - Los Angeles, San Francisco, Mexico City, Tehran, Tokyo."
He pointed to changes in the physical structures of human civilization, and how the new composure poses many risks. "We are creating mega cities where there used to be fishing villages." About the many disasters this year, he said: "Well, look at the Chilean earthquake. You realize it was so big it actually rocked the planet earth. The axis of the earth shifted 3 inches as a result of that 8.8 earthquake. The day is no longer 24 hours, it's been shortened by one micro-second, That's how big that earthquake was."


Two thousand years ago Mount Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii. Today, a larger, far more deadly supervolcano lurks on the other side of Naples. If it erupts, Campi Flegrei could wipe out all life in Europe. An international team wants to drill down inside the caldera to try to better understand exactly why part of it has risen 10ft since 1969. The area at the epicentre of the swelling has seen whole streets of houses crumble and collapse. The threat is imminent. The last time the ground rose like this (between 1430 and 1538) there was an eruption that caused the formation of a new volcano.
"The future eruption begins with a swarm of 1,000 small earthquakes that ripple under the pavements of Naples. Air-conditioning units fall from the sides of buildings and tiles slip from the walls. Inside the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology’s control centre, a bank of screens indicates that the quakes aren’t being generated by the giant Mount Vesuvius, which looms over the city. These quakes are coming from something far bigger, from one of the largest and most dangerous volcanoes in the world: the Campi Flegrei caldera. Vesuvius, which destroyed the Roman city of Pompeii, incinerating and suffocating thousands, is nothing more than a pimple on the back of the sleeping dragon of Campi Flegrei, an active four-mile-wide sunken volcano. A call is quickly put through to Civil Defence and the Italian Ministry of the Interior: the city must be evacuated immediately.
A short distance away, the ground around the ancient town of Pozzuoli is stretching, swelling, doming. Fumaroles – vents emitting columns of steam rich in CO2 – open up in the broken Tarmac. Four-and-a-half miles below the surface a bolt of magma has escaped the main reservoir and is rising upwards, changing and solidifying. As it reaches groundwater, it’s converted into a sponge-like stone. As the water boils away it feeds critical amounts of gas into the sponge, and the pressure builds until finally it explodes like a malfunctioning boiler.
Hundreds of billions of cubic feet of volcanic rock blasts up into the atmosphere: an explosion 200 times greater than that of the Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which brought chaos to Europe, grounded planes in the UK for a week and is said to have cost the world economy in excess of £3 billion. Back on the streets of Naples, it’s too late to run. Bumper-to-bumper traffic comes to a halt as drivers grind on their horns. They watch helplessly as a boiling black cloud of hot gas and rock rolls over the horizon at hurricane speed, suffocating everything in its path. In this area inhabited by millions, built in one of the most dangerous volcanic regions on earth, all life is over."
While a new eruption at Campi Flegrei would be more likely to result in the creation of another Vesuvius-like cone, the worst-case scenario COULD SEE IT OBLITERATING MUCH OF LIFE IN EUROPE. In this eventuality the Earth’s surface would swell and crack and a series of small eruptions would cause the four-mile-wide caldera floor to collapse into the larger magma reservoir, which would in turn push more magma to the surface.
The last time the ground gave way like this, 39,000 years ago when the caldera was formed, it created the cliffs that the postcard town of Sorrento stands on now – volcanic deposits over 300ft deep. If the same kind of eruption happened today, this part of Italy could cease to exist, and the ash clouds would blot out the Sun and lower the Earth’s temperature. Life in the UK as we know it would end. We would lose our livestock, crops and three-quarters of our plant species, plunging us into a new dark age of rioting, starvation and perpetual winter.
‘Right now we may well be in another period of uplift. If it occurs as before, we might expect another 60 years’ worth of unrest, and possible earthquakes and eruptions, with two or three more episodes and uplift to occur in the next ten years. We have to presume we have a few more decades of unrest, and if this is going to be the case, then we have to get more data about the volcano now.’
Yet despite the urgency, the mayor of Naples has just dramatically halted the project. Drilling was to begin this month on the site of the old Bagnoli steel mill, on the eastern part of the caldera, but was stopped following the very public objections of a sole local scientist, who has warned that the drilling itself could actually trigger an explosion that could destroy the city. The people of Naples seem to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. (photos)

No current tropical cyclones.

A cyclone warning has been issued for regions of Western Australia as a tropical low pressure system moves toward the coast. The tropical low is moving parallel to the Pilbara coast at a speed of 31 kilometers (19 miles) an hour and may develop into a cyclone later today. The system is unlikely to cause flooding in the Pilbara region due to its speed and likely location offshore. Apache Corp. and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. halted oil field production off Western Australia because of the storm and Port Hedland, 1,300 kilometers north of Perth and the world’s largest bulk export terminal, has suspended movements of inbound shipping. The cyclone warning in Western Australia comes as heavy rain and flooding on the other side of the country shut down mines in Queensland state.

11 storms hit Philippines in 2010 - Even with the extreme weather disturbances associated with La Niña, the country was still relatively spared from horrendous destructions brought on by tropical storms as compared to 2009. Back-to-back onslaughts by Ondoy (international codename: Ketsana) and Pepeng (international codename: Parma) in 2009 left billions of pesos' worth of damage to crops, infrastructure and property. The twin storms also killed a thousand people and rendered hundreds of citizens homeless. The delayed start of the rainy season in the Philippines due to the El Niño phenomenon has also trimmed down the number of tropical cyclones. Only 11 storms visited the country in 2010, six of which failed to make landfall. "Although some storms were not able to enter the country, they were able to enhance the southwest monsoon (prevailing at that time) and bring rains. In the Philippines, many of our areas are flood prone. It (flood) is always a perennial problem for us." Only two storms registered substantial effects. These were typhoons Basyang (international codename: Conson) and Juan (international codename: Megi), which hit the country in July and October, respectively. Aside from directly hitting Metro Manila and triggering Luzon-wide blackouts, Basyang's three-day (July 12-15) blitz caused widespread flooding in the nation's capital, Southern and Central Luzon, and parts of the Visayas and Mindanao. The storm killed 102 people while 91 are injured and 46 are still missing. Total damage to infrastructure and agriculture reached P377.83 million, with rice and high value crop-generating areas in Luzon bearing the brunt of the typhoon. Typhoon Juan, on the other hand, nearly flattened villages in the eastern seaboard of Isabela as it affected more than two million people in Luzon and left 31 dead, 42 injured and four missing. Damage was pegged at P12.03 billion, with agricultural production incurring heavy devastation, most especially rice and corn (P9.29 billion). With media calling it a "super typhoon," Juan's strength was compared to that of Typhoon Reming (international codename: Durian), which killed over a thousand people in the Bicol region and Southern Luzon in late 2006. Juan was also the world's strongest storm this year, packing maximum sustained winds of 225 kilometers per hour near the center.
Although it has yet to come up with an estimate number of storms for 2011, Pagasa keeps itself busy in fast-tracking the rehabilitation of radar stations, as well as strengthening its partnership with the private sector. Additional automatic weather stations and rainfall monitoring equipment will be installed nationwide. By the end of the year, the country will have seven Doppler radars in place.


PHILIPPINES braced for the effects of the La Niña phenomenon, and beyond-normal rainfall conditions have already been recorded in different parts of the country. La Niña is expected to continue at least into the March-April-May (MAM) 2011 season. The Governor declared a state of emergency Thursday following torrential rain, which caused landslides and flooding. The affected towns are Malilipot, Sto. Domingo, Bacacay, Manito and Jovellar. The high water forced the evacuation of more than 3,500 residents from the region. At least one woman died and her son missing as a result of the inclement weather. The extreme weather was caused by an Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), a dangerous and difficult to predict weather pattern. To make matters worse for the battered Bicol region, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology recorded Thursday eight volcanic earthquakes near Bulusan Volcano. Alert Level 1 remains over the area.

Tornadoes kill seven in south and mid-western US - A series of tornadoes in the south and mid-western US has killed seven people, injured several others and caused power failures for thousands in the region. Three residents of the small town of Cincinnati in Arkansas were killed early on Friday. Tornadoes were later blamed for the deaths of three people in southern Missouri. And a woman seriously hurt on Friday near the south-east Missouri town of Rolla died in hospital on Saturday. Several other people in Arkansas and Missouri were injured.
The tornado in Cincinnati caused damage near a local highway in the town's centre and points west of Washington County in Arkansas. The tornado hit the town, located about 20 miles (32km) west of the city of Fayetteville, around 0610 local time (1210GMT) on Friday. Emergency responders were experiencing difficulties early on Friday in reaching damaged areas in the region because of power lines that had been knocked down. A combination of warm, wet air in the region and colder air moving in from the west created the conditions necessary for the tornado. "Anytime you have a significant change in air mass there is going to be unsettled weather marking the two different air masses." The deaths in Cincinnati and Missouri pushed this year's count of tornado-related fatalities in the US to 42.
ARKANSAS - A tornado fuelled by an UNUSUALLY WARM winter air sliced through parts of northwestern Arkansas early on New Year's Eve, killing three people, injuring several others and knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses.
The region has been bracing for severe weather for much of the week. Gulf moisture riding southerly winds pushed temperatures into the upper 60s and 70s Thursday - ahead of a cold front expected to drop temperatures into the teens by Saturday morning. The same storm system caused damage in nearby Tontitown, but emergency responders had trouble reaching the damaged areas because of downed power lines.
Later, in south-central Missouri, baseball-sized hail was reported north of Mansfield in Wright County. "In the winter you don't always have the instability" that would allow tornadoes to develop. "This time, we have the instability." The tornado fatalities are the first in the nation since September 16, when a woman hit a falling tree while driving in Queens, New York, and a man was killed in his home at Belleville, West Virginia.
After a week of extreme weather in the U.S. - rain and mudslides in the West, blizzard conditions in the East - it seemed the only thing missing was a tornado. Friday there were at least 20. Six people were known dead. From Arkansas to Missouri to Illinois, the funnel clouds came out of nowhere in THE WORST OUTBREAK OF TWISTERS ON A NEW YEAR'S EVE IN 50 YEARS. Tornadoes are EXTREMELY RARE this time of year, but those that do occur are often deadlier because they move faster in the cold air, leaving less time for warnings.
WEIRD Weather Hit Much of the Country - Blizzard warnings were in effect for parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas. On the Las Vegas strip, people preparing to party were shivering from the cold. In Arizona, RARE snow flurries dusted the desert around Phoenix, a RARE blizzard dumped a foot of snow on higher elevations and shut down Interstate 17 Thursday overnight. The Denver area received about half a foot of snow overnight. Blowing snow in North Dakota led to a massive pile-up Thursday along Interstate 94 west of Fargo. The chain reaction accident involved up to 100 cars and trucks.

EGYPT - Floodwaters caused by torrential rains swept a bus packed with 77 schoolgirls and their teachers off a highway in the country's south, killing 15 people. Poorly equipped rescue workers and local residents struggled to save those on board the bus, which overturned late on Wednesday in a deep trench created by strong flood currents along the highway leading to the city of Minya, 200km south of the capital Cairo. The dead included an ambulance driver who had rescued 20 of those on board the bus before the floods swept him away and he also drowned. Survivors recounted that the bus driver had stopped to have a closer look at the surrounding terrain, inundated with torrential rains and flooding, when the water suddenly swept them away. Egypt's southern region, where village houses are built of mud bricks and the roads are poorly maintained, was heavily affected during the rains and bad winter weather earlier this week

AUSTRALIA - flood zone bigger than France and Germany combined (and bigger than the state of Texas). More than 200,000 people have been affected by relentless flooding in northeast Australia, with the flood zone now stretching over an area bigger than France and Germany combined. Thousands of homes and businesses across Queensland state have been inundated with water after days of pounding rain caused swollen rivers to overflow. The entire population of two towns was forced to evacuate as water swamped their communities, cutting off roads and devastating crops. Heavy rains and flooding in northeast Australia is common during the southern hemisphere summer, but the scope of the damage from the recent downpours is EXTREMELY UNUSUAL. "We now have 22 towns or cities that are either substantially flooded or isolated because the roads have been cut off to them.


JAPAN - Four men have been killed after an avalanche engulfed them on a ski slope in western Japan. The men were on patrol at a ski resort on Mount Daisen after an earlier avalanche. "They were checking the safety of skiers when a second avalanche occurred, sweeping them away. The area was hit by a snowstorm Friday and the weather agency warned of blizzards and violent winds around New Year in western and northern Japan. Nearly 80 domestic flights had been cancelled by late Friday.


FLORIDA - December's cold - one for the RECORD books - may be done, but extreme weather is not over as the new year arrives. On Friday, northern Palm Beach County was ratcheted up to "severe" drought conditions. And the remainder of the county remains with a "moderate" drought rating. Firefighters battled brushfires in Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, Juno Beach, suburban West Palm Beach and Pahokee on Friday.
At the same time, the National Weather Service issued a coastal flood statement for Palm Beach County for overnight Friday, warning of a high risk of rip currents on area beaches. Persistent east-to-southeast winds of about 15 miles per hour create the risk. Rip currents are 10- to 30-yard channels of water which suck swimmers away from shore. On Friday, county lifeguards flew yellow warning flags and, in southern Palm Beach County, purple flags as well, warning of Portuguese man-o-war. "I bet we've had an abundance of man-of-war stings today." Man-of-war - which are not jellyfish, although they are sometimes mistaken for them - are blue-colored invertebrates with long, stinging tentacles. Droves arrive on area shores when winds pick up. To the north, a lifeguard and training officer in Juno Beach reported an influx of another kind - all kinds, actually, of ocean creatures. 'Everything that swims has been hugging the shoreline. Manatee, bottle-nosed dolphin, spinner sharks, snook, tarpon, grouper."


SUNSPOT ALERT: 2011 is beginning with a flurry of sunspots. Five dark cores have emerged on the Earth-side of the sun. So far, none of the new regions is producing strong solar flares.
A solar wind stream flowing from a coronal hole should reach Earth around Jan. 3rd - the first solar wind stream of the New Year. US Department of Defense polar-orbiting satellites are observing bright bands of auroral light circling the North Pole. "It shows the sinuous path of the energetic particles entering Earth's upper atmosphere." These sinuous bands could descend south over Europe and parts of North America around Jan. 3rd when the solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth's magnetosphere. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. (photos)