Thursday, January 20, 2011

AUSTRALIA - Flood-affected areas of southeast Queensland are in the firing line for the third day in a row with the Bureau of Meteorology issuing a severe thunderstorm warning. "Very heavy rainfall and flash flooding are likely." Severe thunderstorms kept emergency services busy overnight and hampered the reconnection of power to flood-weary southeast Queenslanders. Severe storms rolled across the Lockyer Valley from 7pm (AEST) on Wednesday, then moved east to Brisbane, bringing damaging winds and lightning to the region and hail to Oakey. At the height of the storm 30,000 properties lost power and crews had to be redirected from flood restoration duties.

**Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world
that we must love our enemies - or else?
The chain reaction of evil -
hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars -
must be broken, or else we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.**
Martin Luther King, Jr.

This morning -

Yesterday -
1/19/11 -

NEW ZEALAND - More earthquakes have hit Christchurch with residents woken by a 5.1 magnitude tremor. The earthquake hit at 4.03am (AEDT) and was centred 10km south-west of Christchurch at a depth of 10km. It was followed by a 3.4 quake at 6.02am (AEDT) at the same location and depth and four minutes later a 4.0 tremor hit 20km west of Christchurch at a depth of 15km. Only one person has reported substantial damage at Kaiapoi, north of Christchurch.


INDONESIA - Merapi volcano mud threatens temples. Three Hindu temple sites that date back to the eighth and tenth century are vulnerable to Mount Merapi’s cold volcanic mud flow in Magelang, Central Java. Located near Pabelan and Tlising rivers, which are the paths for the cold volcanic mud flow, the three temple sites are Lumbung, Asu and Pendhem. These were built during the glorious Hindu era known as the ancient Mataram kingdom in 869 AD. The Lumbung Temple is only 1 meter from Pabelan river, and the river has already eroded the 20-meter-high cliff near the temple. Meanwhile, Asu and Pendhem temples are about 200 meters from both Pabelan and Tlising rivers. Several parts of the temples have been scattered around the sites due to the ground’s movement during the cold volcanic mud flow. Access to the three temples has also been destroyed by the volcanic mud flow. The local administration is being asked to secure the sites before the volcanic mud flow destroys them totally.

Yellowstone Has Bulged as Magma Pocket Swells - Some places saw the ground rise by ten inches. Yellowstone National Park's supervolcano just took a deep "breath," causing miles of ground to rise dramatically, scientists report. The simmering volcano has produced major eruptions - each a thousand times more powerful than Mount St. Helens's 1980 eruption - three times in the past 2.1 million years. Yellowstone's caldera, which covers a 25- by 37-mile (40- by 60-kilometer) swath of Wyoming, is an ancient crater formed after the last big blast, some 640,000 years ago.
Since then, about 30 smaller eruptions - including one as recent as 70,000 years ago - have filled the caldera with lava and ash, producing the relatively flat landscape we see today. But beginning in 2004, scientists saw the ground above the caldera rise upward at rates as high as 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) a year. The rate slowed between 2007 and 2010 to a centimeter a year or less. Still, since the start of the swelling, ground levels over the volcano have been raised by as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) in places. "It's an EXTRAORDINARY uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high."
Scientists think a swelling magma reservoir four to six miles (seven to ten kilometers) below the surface is driving the uplift. Fortunately, the surge doesn't seem to herald an imminent catastrophe. "At the beginning we were concerned it could be leading up to an eruption. But once we saw [the magma] was at a depth of ten kilometers, we weren't so concerned. If it had been at depths of two or three kilometers [one or two miles], we'd have been a lot more concerned." At the Yellowstone supervolcano, it appears the ground has risen and fallen for thousands of years without an eruption. Based on geologic evidence, Yellowstone has probably seen a continuous cycle of inflation and deflation over the past 15,000 years, and the cycle will likely continue. Surveys show, for example, that the caldera rose some 7 inches (18 centimeters) between 1976 and 1984 before dropping back about 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) over the next decade. "There has to be magma in the crust, or we wouldn't have all the hydrothermal activity that we have. There is so much heat coming out of Yellowstone right now that if it wasn't being reheated by magma, the whole system would have gone stone cold since the time of the last eruption 70,000 years ago." Overall, "the story of Yellowstone deformation has gotten more complex as we've had better and better technologies to study it." (video)


AUSTRALIA - Residents in low-lying parts of Brisbane, or near a creek, have been warned to prepare for a king tide on Friday that could cause more flooding. "As a result there could be some localised flooding as the Brisbane River continues to recede after last week's flood...The river and creek heights are expected to be similar to what occurred on the winter king tide in July and tidal flooding on the 21st of December last year." Expected shower and storm activity could exacerbate the situation.

No current tropical cyclones.


AUSTRALIA - People in the south-eastern Australian town of Kerang have been told to leave their homes, as rising river levels threatened another community in the WORST FLOOD CRISIS IN DECADES. More than 1,000 Kerang residents have moved to a nearby evacuation centre, as the Loddon River continues to swell. The alert comes a day after a boy drowned in another area of Victoria. The evacuation warning was issued by the State Emergency Service after water from the Loddon River began to seep through a levee, raising fears that Kerang could be inundated. Officials warned that the town could be isolated for five days, and advised residents to pack ample supplies.
Spreading waters were surging across the north and east of state, and more than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes. At least 58 towns across Victoria have now been hit by floods and 22 relief centres are in operation. Power cuts are in force as electricity stations have been submerged. Floodwaters split the Victorian town of Horsham in two on Tuesday, as the body of a young boy was found in another flood-hit town, Shepparton.
The flooding in Victoria follows weeks of massive flooding in Queensland, which has swamped two-thirds of the state, crippling its lucrative mining industry. A heavy storm pounded Queensland's state capital Brisbane and the nearby town of Ipswich, and impeded recovery efforts there. More than 7,000 lightning strikes were recorded, while falling trees damaged homes and created new fears in an area already badly hit by floods. Residents there have been warned that more heavy rain is to come. In Queensland, floods have killed more than 30 people since the tropical storms began in November. The floods are said to be Australia's MOST EXPENSIVE NATURAL DISASTER.
Dimboola was a town on edge overnight, with damage detected at its weir. Authorities issued an evacuation warning for the western Victorian town, downstream from Horsham on the Wimmera River, just before 5am. 24 homes are now at risk of being inundated, with another 29 under threat if the weir breaks. A further 75 homes are likely to have water on their property. Despite warnings from the SES the Dimboola Weir could fail, most residents have chosen to stay.
An evacuation warning was also given for Kow Swamp, northwest of Echuca, at 4.30am. A levee bank in the town has been compromised and residents should relocate to a relief centre at Cohuna. Residents in both Kow Swamp and Dimboola have been warned they could face days on their own if they choose to ignore evacuation warnings. Meanwhile, Kerang became an inland island overnight as the last remaining road out of town was cut off by the swollen Loddon River. Residents now face days up to three days of isolation before the waters are expected to recede. About 1000 evacuees have been warned that it still isn't safe to go home. An electricity station about 1km from central Kerang remains under threat, and an estimated 20,000 people would be left without power if it becomes inundated. There is also extensive flooding in the nearby Bullock Creek, Bendigo Creek and Pyramid Creek systems.
The damage bill from Victoria's flood crisis will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, the new head of Victoria's Floods Appeal said. The exact figure - including lost crops - would take months to tally. Victoria's RECORD FLOOD woes will continue into next week, as more communities in the north and northwest remain on high alert. The small communities of Jeparit, Dimboola, Brim and Beulah in the state's northwest are now expected to be threatened in coming days. At Warracknabeal, 340km northwest of Melbourne, a 6km-long levee bank built mostly by residents and 55,000 sandbags may have saved the town from a ONCE-IN-200-YEAR FLOOD. When the Yarriambiack Creek reached its peak at 10.45am (AEDT) yesterday, the water was close to the top of the bank and homes would have been flooded if not for the levee. The water is expected to remain high until lunchtime today and will continue to put pressure on the temporary levee banks, leaving 177 homes under threat. "The levee's leaking ... and they're patching as it goes. We have enough resources now to fix those when we can. We've got to make sure the temporary levee holds." The floods, which have hit more than 1730 properties, were far from over with waters expected to keep travelling north in the next 10 days.
In the north and the northwest regions, "this is WITHOUT DOUBT THE MOST SIGNIFICANT FLOOD IN VICTORIA SINCE RECORDS BEGAN, SOMETHING IN THE ORDER OF 130 YEARS AGO. This flooding is likely to continue into next week in many of our communities."
One Gold Coast developer's possible solution to Queensland's flooding problem is mini-suburbs on stilts. Communities on concrete pylons - roads, houses and all - could be the way of the future, and the State Government will consider houses on stilts as way to stop homes going under in a flood. The Gold Coast could be home to one of the first ''suburbs on stilts'' after a court cleared the way for a Merrimac development late last year. Councillors originally knocked back the proposal fearing it would be a osiquito-infested shanty town but the decision was overturned.
The development will have 13 duplexes and 112 units built on a concrete slab 4m above a flood plain. The homes will be two to three levels, with a mix of two and three bedrooms and car parks all above the ground.
They will have stair access to landscaped areas underneath the concrete slab, which will be mulched with river rock. ''If we ever get a flood ... debris, dead animals and other sludge is going to build up under the slab. You'll get a decaying smell. The body corporate will be responsible for maintaining the area underneath.'' TStilts are not a new development in Queensland architecture, with the traditional Queenslander home raised above ground level to cool the building and protect against termites and flooding. Stilt homes can also be found in other parts of the globe prone to flooding, particularly Asia.
The city has a different approach of building up developments on landfill so the houses, roads and infrastructure were above the level of a one-in-100 year flood. The State Government's Commission of Inquiry announced on Monday will look into development on flood-prone land and whether threatened areas should be rezoned entirely or houses built on stilts. ''Some of them are going to be very tough decisions but we owe it to future generations to bite the bullet and make the right one."

BRAZIL - At least 207 people are still missing after Brazil's worst landslides in decades, authorities said on Wednesday, as the death toll from the disaster in a scenic mountain region reached 741. The final death toll could be close to 1,000. Local officials in the worst-affected towns of Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo said the number of missing was at least 300. Many of them are believed buried under the avalanches of mud and debris from flash floods that destroyed hundreds of homes. "There are families that were so decimated that there is no one left to confirm who's missing."
Hundreds of people are believed to still be in areas at risk of fresh mudslides. Some of them are cut off from help by smashed roads and bridges, while others refuse to leave for fear their houses will be raided by looters. The floods and mudslides hit with such force that the geography of the region has changed profoundly. "Streams turned into wide, deep rivers. There is a huge geographical change; it's as if towns were completely reshaped. People in these mountainside areas aren't as secure as they used to think."

PHILIPPINES - Summer is supposed to be the dry season in the country. Not this year. It’s going to be a wet summer that will have typhoons due to the La Niña phenomenon that has been spawning rains in the Philippines since December. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said large parts of the country would get above-normal rainfall in the summer months of March, April and May. Weather models and advisories from various national meteorological centers forecast La Niña to last until May, with the peak occurring in February.
The months from March to May are considered the height of summer in the country, when millions troop to the beaches. These months are usually the driest months, with typhoons making an appearance only in mid-May.
PAGASA expects one typhoon in March, two in April and another two in May. June, the start of the rainy season, is expected to have two to three typhoons. La Niña arrived in the Philippines last October. The phenomenon, the opposite of El Niño, occurs when the surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean gets colder. The last time the Philippines experienced a severe La Niña was in 1998, after a harsh El Niño year. The Philippines received “above-normal” rainfall in the summer months of 1998, Hilario said, noting that this scenario is expected to be repeated in 2011. The country suffered El Niño from 2009 to April 2010. Since December, the Philippines, particularly the eastern seaboard, has been getting an EXTRAORDINARY amount of rains. PAGASA also noted that more provinces were experiencing large amounts of rainfall this year compared with 1998. Forecast maps showed that even western parts of the Philippines, which should be dry this year, were receiving above-normal rainfall. Catarman town in Northern Samar province received the biggest volume of rainfall from Jan. 1 to Jan. 17, at 1,214.3 mm. (The normal rainfall in the town is 444.2 mm.) This was followed by Borongan town in Samar province, which got 1,214.3 mm of rainfall during the first 17 days of January, significantly higher than the previous January figure of 597.5 mm. In Puerto Princesa City in Palawan province, the PAGASA station posted a rainfall of 148.6 mm, way above the city’s normal level of 29.5 mm. Western Visayas has also reported nonstop rains in the past week. In the past, the region received minimal rainfall during this month.