Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Haiti earthquake and floods in Pakistan and China helped make 2010 an EXCEPTIONAL YEAR FOR NATURAL DISASTERS, killing 295,000 and costing $130 billion, the world's top reinsurer says. "The high number of weather-related natural catastrophes and RECORD TEMPERATURES both globally and in different regions of the world provide further indications of advancing climate change," said Munich Re.
The last time so many people died in natural disasters was in 1983, when 300,000 people died, mainly due to famine in Ethiopia. A total of 950 natural disasters were recorded last year, making 2010 the second worst year since 1980. The average number of events over the past 10 years was 785. In terms of economic cost, insured losses amounted to approximately $37 billion, putting 2010 among the six most loss-intensive years for the insurance industry since 1980. "2010 showed the major risks we have to cope with. There were a number of severe earthquakes. The hurricane season was also eventful."
The earthquake in Haiti in January was by far the worst disaster in terms of human cost, killing 222,570 people. 56,000 died in a combination of heatwaves and forest fires in Russia. The other most destructive events were an earthquake in China in April that killed 2,700, floods in Pakistan between July and September that cost 1,760 lives and August floods in China in which 1,470 perished. Although the Haiti earthquake resulted in human devastation on a "staggering scale", it cost the industry very little as very few people in the poverty-stricken country can afford insurance. However, an earthquake in Chile that hit over a month later was the world's most expensive natural disaster last year, with overall losses of 30 billion dollars and insured losses of eight billion dollars. The second most expensive disaster for the insurance industry was a series of earthquakes that rattled New Zealand, which cost an estimated 3.3 billion dollars but caused no deaths.
The global distribution of natural catastrophes in 2010 was however "comparable to that of previous years." The American continent suffered the most disasters with 365, while Asia was second with 310. A total of 120 natural disasters were recorded in Europe, 90 in Africa and 65 in Australia and Oceania. In 2009, considered a "benign" year due to the absence of major catastrophes and a less severe than usual hurricane season in the North Atlantic, there were 900 "destructive natural hazard events", costing some 60 billion dollars. Around 11,000 people lost their lives in natural disasters in 2009, well below the average of 77,000. Man-made and natural disasters generated worldwide economic losses of 222 billion dollars in 2010, more than three times the figure for 2009.

**If you count all your assets, you always show a profit.**
Robert Quillen

This morning -

Yesterday -


ITALY - Mt. Etna becomes active, no lava eruption recorded yet. Mount Etna in Sicily has once again become active erupting large amounts of ash. Seismologists have recorded the eruption of Mount Etna and say that it is accompanied by the ejection of volcanic ‘bombs’ (large stones) and a large amount of ash in the area southeast of the crater on Monday night. The most active emissions for duration ranging from one to three minutes occurred between midnight and two o’clock in the morning. These large volcanic ‘bombs’ reached a height of several tens of meters over the crater. By around 06.00 am the volcanic activity decreased significantly, but had not stopped completely. However, no eruption of lava has been recorded from the crater.

INDONESIA - In the worst outflow of lahar since Central Java’s Mount Merapi erupted in October, a torrent of cold lava and mud from the volcano severed several bridges and cut off a main highway for almost 18 hours until Tuesday. “In addition to destroying the Gempol main bridge on the Putih River, lahar also destroyed bridges in other villages, leading to the isolation of hundreds of residents in seven hamlets." No casualties have been reported so far. The flood overflowed from the Putih River in Jumaya village, Salam subdistrict, on Monday night, cutting off the Magelang-Yogyakarta highway at Kilometer 23 for almost 18 hours until about 1 p.m. on Tuesday. More than 500 meters of the highway were submerged under meter-deep lahar. It took seven heavy vehicles to dredge the mud.
“We were really overwhelmed in trying to overcome the worst lava flooding since Mount Merapi stopped erupting.
We’re worried about subsequent lahar floods as the rainfall is still high on the slope of the mountain.” The lahar overflow on Monday evening was the most severe since the status of Merapi was downgraded from “stand-by” to” beware” at the end of December. “For the umpteenth time, we warned the people against lahar floods, a secondary threat after the volcano’s eruption. If the rainfall reaches 20 millimeters per hour, as what happened on Monday night, the lahar will overflow into villages and roads." Lahar can move down the slope of the volcano at a speed of more than 60 miles per hour (97 kmh) and kill anyone or damage anything in its path. “We should not underestimate the lahar floods, and we urge people not to see the flow from a close range." The lahar flood destroyed six bridges and a police office in Cangkringan subdistrict. “Our suffering was not really finished with the end to the volcano’s eruption. We do not know when the disaster will end." “In a very short time, our office was destroyed by the heavy flow of lahar. We could only save computer units, typewriters and other office equipment, but some records are still being tracked. All members of the police and the detainee could be evacuated. No injuries reported."

Alert declared following volcanic eruptions in Papua New Guinea - A level three alert has been declared following a series of eruptions of the Manam volcano in Madang Province in Papua New Guinea. The Rabaul Volcanic Observatory has issued the alert following a series of eruptions on Christmas Day which increased in magnitude over the next five days.
The alert warns people not to climb to higher gardens or walk into or across valleys because of possible lava flow. The eruptions frightened over 1000 villagers who are demanding to be evacuated but government officials have gone to the island to provide assurance to them. There appears to be no immediate danger providing precautions are followed.

2010: Volcanic Year in Review - It was a busy year, both for the usual suspects and some volcanoes that erupted seemingly out of the blue. (photos)

No current tropical cyclones.


BIRD DEATHS IN TWO U.S. STATES - Some of the nation's top experts Tuesday were looking for clues into sudden, mass deaths of birds in two states over New Year's weekend. "This one is UNUSUAL because of the time period over which so many birds died." In Arkansas, as many as 5,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings fell from the sky in a square-mile area in less than an hour on New Year's Eve. In Louisiana, 500 red-winged blackbirds, starlings and grackles were found dead in Labarre. A preliminary report conducted Monday by the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission found that the birds in Beebe, Arkansas, likely died from massive trauma.
There had been reports of loud sounds in Beebe before the reports of birds falling began to come in. It's possible the sounds made the birds disoriented, and they went into sudden, chaotic flights, crashing into each other and into objects. "You're disturbed, you're disoriented, you're trying to figure out where you are. We have seen some stuff like this before when there's heavy dense fog, and they'll run into towers and power lines.
Other bird experts agree that that's a likely explanation. Still, the sudden deaths are QUITE UNUSUAL. "It's kind of a FREAK event. You just don't see these kinds of mass deaths very frequently at all." At this time of year, blackbirds are in huge roosts, particularly throughout the southeastern United States. They generally don't fly at night. In the course of a year, about half the birds that are around die -- even under the best circumstances. The life of a bird is brutish and short. But it just usually happens out of the sight of people."
It's possible that the loud sound that triggered the incident was New Year's Eve fireworks, though officials said the investigation is ongoing. "If it had been any other day of the week," he might have suspected people to be behind the deaths. "There's a lot of purposeful killings. ... People really don't like these big roosts. But I can't see anybody doing that on New Year's Eve." His "first suspicion is that they were frightened and went into a mass panic. I would call this event UNUSUAL, but not unprecedented." The birds showed evidence of trauma in the breast tissue, with blood clots in the body cavity and a lot of internal bleeding. All major organs were normal. Such incidents can be caused by a lightning strike or high-altitude hail. A strong storm system moved through the state earlier in the day Friday.
The experts saw nothing surprising in there being a similar report of bird deaths in Louisiana. "It's another one of those coincidences. I'm really interested to see if there's anything that could possibly be related. I asked about weather conditions there. There's sometimes high-altitude hail." But, so far officials were not aware of "any strange weather patterns" in the area.
There may be more reports of dead birds found around the country. "As soon as one of these things hits the airwaves, people are just more sensitive to seeing dead birds around." Meanwhile, Arkansas officials are investigating the death of an estimated 100,000 fish in the state's northwest, but suspect disease was to blame.
[Beebe isn't far from Guy, Arkansas where a mysterious earthquake swarm has been occurring. From September 20 to December 14 , the community of 549 residents north of Little Rock experienced an almost constant shaking from 487 measurable earthquakes.
"These are shallow quakes between two and eight kilometers (between one-and-a-quarter and five miles) below the surface." While earthquakes aren't unusual in the Southeast state, the frequency is. "This time last year we had 39 quakes total for the entire state." There are several geologic faults in the area, but none associated with the New Madrid fault. There was another historic flurry of earthquakes in 1982, 15 miles south of Guy. Geologists know it as the Enola Swarm, responsible for 15,000 quakes within a year's time, followed by more shaking in 2001.]
BIRDS - LOUISIANA - Two days after thousands of dead birds fell from the sky in Arkansas 500 more have been discovered in Louisiana. Biologists are trying to determine what killed the birds that littered a quarter-mile stretch of highway in Point Coupee Parish. The birds included red-winged blackbirds and starlings. Monday's discovery along Louisiana Highway 1 came just three days after more than 3,000 blackbirds fell from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas. Authorities say examinations showed those birds suffered internal injuries that formed deadly
blood clots.

MARYLAND - FISH Kill Caused By Cold Stress. Thousands Of Dead Fish Wash Onto Bay Shores. Tens of thousands of small fish have died in the Chesapeake Bay due to the stress of the cold water. Reports of a fish kill started coming in last week from Calvert County and Kent Island. Monday the fish had begun washing onto the shore. The types of fish that have died are menhayden, spots and croakers. The fish usually swim to warmer waters before the severe cold weather that the area experienced in December. There is no word on why the fish didn't do that. They do check them out to make sure the kill isn't caused by a pollutant.

NEW ZEALAND - FISH - There has been another inexplicable case of dead animals with dozens of dead fish washing up on a New Zealand beach. The snapper were floating close to shore.

Mysterious killing of FISH in coastal BRAZIL - At least 100 tons of fish (sardine, croaker and catfish) have turned up dead since last Thursday off the coast of Parana. On Sunday, representatives took samples to verify the reason for the deaths. Apart from Paranagua, the dead fish are starting to appear in other coastal towns. "The dead fish are going to Antonina and Guaraqueçaba Pontal do Paraná. We need an urgent solution to this."
There are three hypotheses for the death of fish. “We will wait to see what happened, but speculations suggest that fish may have died due to an environmental imbalance, dropping a fishing boat or leakage of chemicals." The sale of seafood as a precaution, is temporarily suspended in the region. “It is not forbidden, but we have oriented people do not purchase or consume these products to avoid any problems. There is no indication that someone has gone bad [or became ill]." The whole situation worries the fishing community of coastal Paraná. “I urge the authorities to look for these problems from the sea. Not just in Paranagua, but throughout our state. When such a disaster, the fishermen suffer. We cannot let that happen."