Monnday, February 28, 2011

Extreme weather battering the insurance industry - "What no one disputes is that the storms the industry EXPECTS AREN'T HAPPENING and the ones they DON'T EXPECT ARE HITTING them hard. The implications are profound for consumers as well as insurers. If hundred-year storms are now at risk of happening every 40 years or every three, it is difficult to know how much property insurance should cost. The last couple of months underscore just how much climate seems to be changing. Queensland state in Australia has suffered a virtual apocalypse - flooding in December, flooding in January and tropical cyclones in February that inundated at least 30,000 homes and crippled the local coal industry. Meanwhile in the United States, snow fell on Christmas Day in a number of southern cities for the first time since at least the 1880s. Los Angeles got six months' worth of rain in three weeks, causing some of the worst flooding in the state's history. The New York metropolitan area had an unprecedented blizzard the day after Christmas and a month later got almost the same, breaking historical records."

**I'm an excellent housekeeper.
Every time I get a divorce, I keep the house.**
Zsa Zsa Gabor

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/27/11 -
None 5.0 or higher.

NEW ZEALAND - Earthquake-scarred Christchurch is bracing for a violent windstorm as intense aftershocks rocked the city today, creating treacherous conditions for rescuers scouring the rubble.
The battered city also faced a new danger when cracks opened in a cliff overlooking suburban streets, forcing more residents to flee their homes in the wake of last Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude tremor. The death toll from the disaster reached 148 today but police have already said they expect the final tally to exceed 200, with more than 50 still listed as 'unaccounted for' in the rubble of New Zealand's second largest city.
A windstorm was forecast to whip through on Monday afternoon, officials said, meaning rescuers searching for bodies and possible survivors would have to retreat from ruins already on the brink of collapse. "(It) will of course, if you have gale force winds, impact on structures, it will affect rescue operations in the area where we have loose masonry. We're hoping the weather won't be as violent, in terms of wind, as it could be, but we need to be prepared."
In the suburb of Sumner, two road were evacuated and an access road was closed off after cracks appeared in a cliff, threatening to send the rockface tumbling onto streets below. There were also a series of strong aftershocks, one measuring 4.7, increasing the risk to rescue crews and further jangling the stretched nerves of locals, who have endured two major earthquakes in the past six months. No survivors have been found since a woman was pulled from a collapsed office building on Wednesday afternoon, although rescuers said they continued to hope for a miracle.

No current tropical cyclones.


AUSTRALIA - Torrential rain and flash flooding are hampering the recovery clean up in cyclone-hit north Queensland towns. The Cassowary Coast region has received 600mm of rain in the past four days. "The rain has eased off but there are still further falls forecast." The bureau has flood warnings issued for the Tully and Murray rivers. The Cassowary Coast was hardest hit when category five Cyclone Yasi rampaged through in early February, damaging more than 850 buildings. "We were pretty lucky to have a couple of weeks after the cyclone (with) little rain, so we were able to make some very good progress but this will slow it down a little bit. Work is still going on, but it will be affected because the flooding has cut many many roads."
The State Emergency Service has had dozens of call-outs over the weekend and today, the majority of jobs in Tully, Cardwell and Mission Beach. Some suburbs in Cairns were also hard hit with 516mm of rain recorded at Kamerunga and 497mm at Cairns airport over the past four days. "There's many reports already of roads that are impassable. It's not out of the ordinary, it happens every wet season."
A monsoon trough is causing the soggy conditions. Cardwell, south of Cairns, has had 168mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am (AEST) today. A monsoon low over Queensland's Gulf and near the Northern Territory border would also bring heavy downpours until Wednesday.

BOLIVIA - Floods and landslides. People have been trying to salvage what they can from shattered homes. A landslide caused by intense rains has destroyed more than 300 homes in the Bolivian city of La Paz. The authorities managed to evacuate the poor Kupini II area before it was smashed by a collapsing hillside. Elsewhere in La Paz, at least five people drowned when a minibus was swept away by a swollen river. Across Bolivia, weeks of heavy rain have killed at least 40 others and left more than 10,000 homeless. Officials evacuated the Kupini II area on Saturday night after cracks began appearing in roads and bridges.
Residents have been trying to recover furniture and other belongings from wrecked houses, while crews with heavy equipment try to stop the landslide from threatening other areas. Much of La Paz is built on steep mountainsides, and landslides are not uncommon, but officials say this was ONE OF THE WORST THE CITY HAS EVER SEEN. Troops have been mobilised to help the evacuation and recovery efforts. So far the only confirmed fatalities in La Paz have been five people killed when a minibus fell into a raging river in the south of the city after a bridge collapsed. The Bolivian government declared a national emergency last Tuesday because of torrential rains across much of the country. The worst flooding has been in the northern Amazon lowlands, where dozens of rural communities have been cut off by rivers that have burst their banks. The government says this year's rainy season has been particularly severe as a result of La Nina, a climatic phenomenon caused by a shift in currents in the Pacific Ocean.
In recent months parts of Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and Central America have also experienced severe flooding.


U.S. - Very active weather in the West on Sunday as a bitterly cold Arctic storm moves through the Southwest and into the Plains. The same storm brought RECORD-BREAKING minimum cold temperatures to parts of California on Saturday. Winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings are in effect for many parts of Arizona above a few thousand feet as several inches of new snow are expected. The snowfall will make travel difficult. Snow also will push into Colorado and New Mexico, but the biggest story in New Mexico will be the wind this storm produces. High wind watches are in effect for much of New Mexico as winds gust up to 70 mph and limit visibility as it blows around newly fallen snow.


TEXAS - High winds, dry weather spark fires across Texas Sunday. Roughly 15,000 acres on fire in separate Texas blazes. Heavy winds and dry weather helped set off a rash of fires across a wide swath of north, central and west Texas on Sunday.
The largest concentration of blazes broke out around the west Texas town of Midland and near the panhandle city of Amarillo, where meteorologists reported wind gusts of up to 69 miles an hour. There have been no fatalities. However, the high winds made it difficult for firefighters to use aircraft to contain the blazes.
Heavy winds were expected to blow across much of the state into Monday, thus making it more likely that firefighters could be many hours away from dousing the final flames spread by the winds. "Numerous homes" have been burned in west Texas and firefighters were continuing to battle the blazes as of Sunday night.
In Amarillo, the National Weather Service reported that as of 2:32 p.m. CT Sunday afternoon a mandatory evacuation order had been issued in northeast Potter County. A second evacuation order was issued for the city of Borger a half hour later. Throughout the afternoon, fires consumed large swaths of land ranging from 30 to 800 acres in Haskell, Mitchell, Howard, Randall and Tom Green counties, among others.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

**Until I was 13, I thought my name was 'Shut Up.'**
Joe Namath

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
2/26/11 -

2/25/11 -

NEW ZEALAND - That wasn't an aftershock," a geologist says of the earthquake that struck Christchurch with deadly force last week. He has questions about whether last week's tremor was an aftershock of last September quake or a new quake in its own right. "It might be a separate earthquake, part of a sequence of earthquakes. It is quite far from the Darfield aftershock cloud, and its fault plane solution is different. However, there are a number of examples of earthquake sequences migrating along a fault plane. One rupture builds up strain on other parts of the fault, and causes other parts to rupture. Analogous to pulling buttons off a shirt."
It generally takes many years before seismic activity can be considered a new quake rather than an aftershock of a previous one. "That's a point of debate among seismologists. But you can't paint all aftershock series with the same brush." More detailed investigations will have to wait until the search and recovery operation was completed.
Although in the South Island the Hope, Marlborough and Alpine faults are better known, earthquakes near or under Christchurch were not unexpected. The NZ Earthquake Commission in 1991 predicted moderate earthquakes under the Canterbury Plains and Christchurch itself. It also signalled liquefaction. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps a seismic survey of the Christchurch metropolitan area might have given some warning. Tuesday's quake caused so much damage because the shaking was very intense. Peak ground acceleration was up to 2.2 times gravity. "Most cities in the world would be totally flattened by such acceleration." "You have to realise that New Zealand has some of the strongest building codes in the world, and those building codes are respected. That means you have loss of life, but it's in the dozens or maybe 100 or 200. If the same earthquake were to happen under a city of that size in a developing country, the number of deaths would be in the thousands, if not tens of thousands. Turkey, for example, had great building codes but that didn't keep tens of thousands of people from getting killed in the 1999 Izmit 7.6-magnitude earthquake. Because they weren't paying attention to those codes."
Did demolition work affect the Canterbury Television building? - The scene of the biggest loss of life in last Tuesday's earthquake is likely to be examined by an inquiry into the disaster as a possible factor in the building's collapse. Questions have been raised as to whether the building was weakened by the demolition work the day before the earthquake struck. Contractors clearing a site next door to the building drilled holes in the back wall of CTV, next to the Cathedral Square side, along the ground floor and also the second storey of the building. The holes were meant for wooden batons attached to the outside wall to support the neighbouring demolition. "I went down to have a look and said to one of the construction guys, 'This doesn't look too smart, the wall looks pretty flimsy to me'. "And he said, 'Nah, nah - we know what we're doing'.
Fifteen CTV staff are believed to be among an estimated 122 people missing in the building rubble in Madras Street. A formal inquiry will be held into why two of the city's major office buildings collapsed; why the 1960s CTV building and the more modern Pyne Gould Guinness building pancaked during the quake.
The number of confirmed fatalities from Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude quake reached 147 late yesterday, but police fear more than 50 people still listed as unaccounted for lie dead in the rubble of New Zealand's second-largest city, with a population of about 390,000. The initial evidence from Tuesday's quake was that buildings constructed after 1992 had withstood it. The CTV building was built in 1960, just before the updating of the 1931 earthquake code, which followed the Napier quake. The PGG building was built in the mid-80s, and under current laws is not required to be compliant with the 1992 standard. Talk has begun among civic leaders and building experts on whether Christchurch needed to be dramatically remodelled to protect it from a repeat of last week's disaster. "One of the things we are going to need to look at is the psychology of the people who have been in these buildings. There is a lot of people who basically won't work in high-rise buildings again. (photo)


PHILIPPINES - Bulusan - Heavy rains push Bulusan lahar, huge rocks into Irosin river. Despite a relatively calm Mt. Bulusan, lahar started to flow down its slopes into a river in Irosin town on Sunday, hours after the rain that began Saturday night. Close to 100,000 residents in slopes around the volcano, particularly in Irosin and Juban, feared flash floods in case torrential rains followed. But on Sunday that the lahar flows were still confined to the Rangas River channel. Lahar and other volcanic sediments started flowing from the slopes of Mt. Bulusan at 10 a.m. on Sunday, causing widespread fear of lahar overflowing to residential areas close to the river system. “We were alarmed because what we see were mostly lahar, sand and big rocks cascading down the slopes of the volcano at a velocity of about 70 kilometers per hour. There were minimal water component compared to the previous lahar flows in November and December,."
Government volcanologists earlier warned of lahar flows in the event of a downpour as tons of ashes and other volcanic debris were deposited along the slopes of the Cogon gully. Mt. Bulusan dumped some 700,000 cubic meters of debris in an ash explosion on Feb. 21, adding to the stockpile from previous explosions since Nov. 6. 2010. The rain stopped at noon Sunday but the lahar flow continued. The Telemetered Seismic Network recorded five volcanic earthquakes during the past 24 hours. Steam activity was not observed due to clouds obscuring the vents and summit crater. Mt. Bulusan remained at alert level No. 1. This means that the source of activity is hydrothermal and shallow.
Taal - At least seven volcanic quakes were recorded around restive Taal Volcano in Batangas in the last 24 hours, state volcanologists said Friday.

Yale scientists predict volcanic explosions using sound waves - The team created a model that judges the volatility of a volcano, using by the frequency of the sound that it emits. The average volcano emits frequencies between 0.5 and 2 Hz. Minutes before an explosion that frequency jumps to a wider range between 0.5 and 7 Hz. The sound is caused by the magma and gas within the volcano interaction, according to the model. Scientists claim that this could help warn people before a violent explosion, but the model’s usefulness has been fiercely debated. “Is a minute’s warning enough for people living near an explosive volcano?”

No current tropical cyclones.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA - Tropical low spells possible cyclone. The Kimberley and Pilbara are again told to prepare for a possible cyclone, with a tropical low developing. This comes after persistent cyclone Carlos lashed the North of the region.

PHILIPPINES - State weather forecasters are monitoring a low-pressure area that might become the first cyclone to enter Philippine territory this year. The LPA may enter Philippine territory this weekend. "The LPA is not yet active but it is already a full one. It is still outside the Philippine area of responsibility as of Friday but it is closely following a shallow low-pressure area (SLPA) already in Philippine territory." Should the LPA eventually become a cyclone in Philippine territory, it will be codenamed "Amang." The LPA is tailing is at 900 km east of Davao City.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thousands of America's Dams Susceptible To Failure - And now there's no money to pay for needed repairs. Of the nation’s 85,000 dams, more than 4,400 are considered susceptible to failure, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. "But repairing all those dams would cost billions of dollars, and it is far from clear who would provide all the money in a recessionary era."

**We spend the first twelve months of our children's lives
teaching them to walk and talk
and the next twelve
telling them to sit down and shut up.**
Phyllis Diller

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
2/24/11 -

NEW ZEALAND - The death toll from Tuesday's deadly magnitude 6.3 earthquake in New Zealand climbed to 98, with 226 people listed as missing. The "loss of life could be more substantial than any one of us had ever dreamed of."
NEW ZEALAND - Christchurch earthquake: Deadly tremors rebounded on city. The hard rock near the quake's epicentre close to Lyttelton may have compounded the effect of the tremor by reflecting greater seismic activity towards the city. Seismologists say the unlikely combination of depth, size and proximity to a populated region all contributed to the devastation. The location of the epicentre close to the Port Hills, which are largely basalt rock, may have also played a role in the catastrophic damage. Seismic activity travels in waves, so it could be compressed, refracted or reflected like an optical waveform. While the waves could be dispersed or absorbed by some properties, they could also rebound off hard surfaces.
"We suspect that the epicentre was probably on the north side of the Port Hills, where a huge amount of energy would have been literally 'pinged' off the basalt rock, almost behaving like a mirror. You can imagine an explosion going off and energy going out towards Christchurch city, but a lot of energy also hitting the hard rock at depth, then being reflected, bounced back and compounding the effect." This event, called seismic lensing, could explain the hotch-potch damage to the city and suburbs. "It'll partly be why there are some parts of Christchurch bizarrely much worse affected than others. A lot depends on that nature of the ground immediately beneath the building, but you have to remember that these waves can behave in strange ways. It could be that the Pyne Gould building, for instance, might have conformed to all the building standards but was hit by an absolute ROGUE WAVE." A previous Californian earthquake, which struck inland, mysteriously brought down several buildings in Santa Monica, a huge distance from the original faultline.
Seismologists are still digging through a wealth of seismic data to understand how a magnitude 6.3 quake produced the largest recorded ground-shaking in New Zealand. The quake - which is an aftershock of the September tremor - reached 9 on the Modified Mercalli intensity scale, which runs to 12. This intensity destroys most buildings of a low standard, and even hurts post-1980s buildings which are specially designed to withstand earthquakes. "What the instruments are telling us is that it was a very energetic earthquake for its size." The previously unknown faultline ran east-to-west from Taylors Mistake to Halswell. It was roughly 3km to 12km deep and 17km long. The aftershocks that were occurring along this faultline were tailing off more quickly than the September quake, but would still continue for months. There have been more than 120 shocks since Tuesday's tremor, the greatest of which was magnitude 5.7.
A team of scientists failed to find a surface rupture in the hills above the epicentre, which meant it was more difficult to understand the nature of the fault and the size of the "stress drop" - the difference between the stress across a fault before and after an earthquake. One, predicted that the fault had been "well-cemented" after lying quiet for thousands of years. "So when it went, it went with a particularly violent bang." While the energy of September's Darfield quake was the equivalent of a car slamming on its brakes sharply, Tuesday's Lyttelton quake appeared to be a longer, heavier release of tension. Satellite images should soon determine how much the earth moved, and the size of the stress drop.


INDONESIA - The mud volcano that has displaced more than 13000 Indonesian families WILL ERUPT FOR AT LEAST A QUARTER OF A CENTURY, emitting belches of flammable gas through a deepening lake of sludge, scientists reported on Thursday.

PHILIPPINES - Government volcanologists yesterday allayed fears of Sorsogon residents of a major eruption of Bulusan volcano, saying that what was ejected last Monday were merely old deposits and not “fresh ones” as earlier reported.

Cyclone CARLOS was 577 nmi NW of Perth, Australia.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NEW ZEALAND - A new threat of landslides has emerged near to the epicentre of the quake, where boulders loosened by the tremor have already killed two and crushed homes. An aerial survey by scientists found no surface trace of the fault, which is centred southeast of Christchurch. But the expedition found worrying evidence of slips on the crest of the Port Hills, and above Lyttelton, Rapaki and Sumner. "These are landslides that have the potential to carry houses down with them, or have run-outs into populated areas. There have been rocks the size of cars which have come down, and some of them have damaged houses - one has gone right through a house. There are still numerous boulders which have the potential to come down." Two people had been killed on walking tracks on Tuesday after being struck by falling rocks. Geologists will place monitoring stakes in the hills to measure whether the landslides are creeping towards populated areas.
Early investigations have suggested that the shallow earthquake was an aftershock of the September quake in Darfield, but did not come from the same faultline. Tests indicated it occurred on a "blind" or unknown fault, which runs east to west 1km north of Lyttelton. This meant that - like the Darfield fault that had lain dormant for at least 16,000 years - the Lyttelton faultline had been accumulating extreme pressure over centuries, before collapsing catastrophically. Experts said the enormous aftershock was statistically UNUSUAL. Generally aftershocks get smaller and less frequent as months go by. "With the decay of the Darfield event, many of us would have breathed a sigh of relief - until Tuesday." The quake was a "strike-slip event with oblique motion", meaning the earth moved mostly side-to-side but occasionally up-and-down. The vertical acceleration of the earth, at 1.9 times the acceleration of gravity, was far greater than the sideways movement. "Anything you put at nearly 2g - it's like lifting a building and dropping it to the ground." The simultaneous vertical and horizontal seismic shifts made it almost impossible for buildings to survive. "It's a blow from below that compresses things up, then a shove sideways, and very little can withstand that."
The earth under Canterbury is still shaking out the stress of the fault, with more than 70 aftershocks measured since Tuesday, four of them magnitude 5 or greater. Seismologists said 4000 aftershocks had occurred since the September quake, but now the "clock had been reset" and Cantabrians could expect months more of tremors. Geologists have reported that the liquefaction in the city was worse than during last year's tremor. Many suburbs have seen houses sink into the ground as the shaken soil turns to wet mush.

**The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit.**
Somerset Maugham

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/23/11 -

NEW ZEALAND - Rescuers have given up all hope of finding any more survivors in the rubble of Christchurch's flattened Canterbury TV building where up to 120 people are buried. "At the CTV site there is no chance of survival." Police confirmed that 76 bodies had been brought to the quake-ravaged city's temporary morgue. However, the number of dead from Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake is expected to skyrocket once recovery efforts get under way in coming days. 238 people are still unaccounted for.
The last person brought out alive was a woman who was pulled from the Pyne Gould Corporation (PGC) building at 3pm (1pm AEDT) yesterday. The PGC building remained a rescue site but police were unable to say how many people were believed to trapped inside. Twenty-nine people have been rescued from the site since the earthquake struck. The badly damaged Christ Church Cathedral contains 16-22 bodies, but the landmark building has been deemed too dangerous to clear. At least three people had died when the bus they were in was crushed by falling rocks. There were also several deaths in cars. Engineers were closely monitoring the 26-storey Grand Chancellor hotel, which is tilting to one side and sunk one-and-a-half metres.


Scientists say volcanoes produce distinctive tremors (persistent earthquakes called volcanic tremors) minutes, days or even weeks before they erupt, making prediction of events possible.

Child dies under volcanic ash cloud in Philippines - Health authorities handed out face masks to thousands of residents around an erupting volcano on Wednesday after a child died of an asthma attack blamed on falling ash. Bulusan volcano spewed a huge ash column on Monday, sending thousands of people fleeing their homes. More than 700 remained at evacuation centres Wednesday awaiting advice on when it is safe to return. Some 6,000 dust masks were handed out to residents of Irosin, one of three towns affected by the ashfall, including nearly 500 people at an evacuation centre there. The health ministry meanwhile distributed face masks in the nearby town of Bulan, where the two-year-old boy died.
Volcanic ash can cause nose, throat, eye and skin irritation as well as contaminate tap water, while prolonged exposure can cause lung disease. Government volcanologists said they had recorded one volcanic quake in the volcano in the past 24 hours, but thick clouds hampered visual observations of further steam and ash emissions.
Bulusan is among 23 active volcanoes in the Philippines, which is located in the so-called Ring of Fire of volcanic activity around the Pacific. Bulusan, 360 kilometres southeast of Manila, last erupted between March and June of 2006. The volcano also shot ash into the air in November last year, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. However volcanologists said that was not an eruption, but heated ash deposits near the crater mouth that exploded and burst out on contact with rainwater.
Philippine scientists on Tuesday warned of more explosions from the restive Bulusan volcano that has been spewing ash for two days after nearly three months of inactivity.

Cyclone ATU was 421 nmi NE of Auckland, New Zealand
Cyclone CARLOS was 567 nmi NNW of Perth, Australia

AUSTRALIA'S avocado industry has felt the full force of Cyclone Yasi, with the storm destroying fruit worth at least $10 million. About 20 per cent of the crop in north Queensland was stripped from trees and a further 30 to 40 per cent of the fruit was damaged by wind resulting in blemishes to the skin. And with the spotty fruit due to hit supermarket shelves this week growers are assuring consumers the damage is only skin deep. Consumers can help avocado growers get back on their feet by continuing to buy the fruit "despite their imperfect appearance." Both Woolworths and Coles have shown their support for Queensland's growers by reviewing their quality specifications and allowing some spotted fruit to shelf. "Supermarkets will continue to enforce strict quality control on all fruit and vegetables, ensuring any imperfections lie on the surface of the skin only."
The full extent of Cyclone Yasi's damage will be revealed this week as growers begin to harvest their crops. Cyclone Yasi has predominantly affected growers in the north Queensland region, in particular the Atherton Tablelands which accounts for 17 per cent to the nation's overall avocado supply. During March and April this figure jumps to 80 to 85 per cent. It will take about 12 months for the industry to recover and for supplies to return to normal, with suppliers relying on avocados from Bundaberg and Western Australia in the meantime. Consumers can expect to see an improvement in the appearance of the fruit when Bundaberg growers harvest their crop in April.

The outer bands of Severe Tropical Cyclone Atu were spreading above the upper North Island of New Zealand last evening creating a hazy sky. The cyclone is as wide as New Zealand is long and it dwarfs the North Island as it begins its three day trek past the country. Atu is not going to hit New Zealand with all forecasters and models agreeing it will pass well to the east of the North Island. Information on the system is sketchy at this latitude, as it leaves the Fijian authorities and moves into MetService's area of responsibility. However unlike Australia and Fiji, New Zealand's government forecaster doesn't provide tracking or specific maps and updates on tropical systems outside of their marine forecasts and normal weather charts. instead turns to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii for the latest information. The JTWC says winds this evening are expected to be averaging 150km/h and gusting to 185km/h. As of 7pm NZT the cyclone was centred 800kms north east of Cape Reinga and 1000kms north of East Cape.
Atu will tonight start the process of becoming extra-tropical, which means it loses it's warm centre and starts to develop into a more "typical" low that we'd see around New Zealand. However it still remains a serious storm that will drive in big seas to the east coast of the North Island. It's likely to bring showers to East Cape as well later today or Friday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Earth Could Be Unrecognizable By 2050 - A harrowing story from is focused on population growth and dwindling resources. The bottom line: western economies and "progress" are predicated on growth. But growth relies on natural resources, which are finite. It's getting more expensive to find and extract oil and natural gas - look at how commodity prices have spiked in just the last year, the result of natural disasters coupled with rising demand for food staples worldwide. Researchers warned at a major US science conference Sunday - "A growing, more affluent population competing for ever scarcer resources could make for an "unrecognizable" world by 2050."
The United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, "with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia." To feed all those mouths, "WE WILL NEED TO PRODUCE AS MUCH FOOD IN THE NEXT 40 YEARS AS WE HAVE IN THE LAST 8,000. By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable" if current trends continue. But incomes are also expected to rise over the next 40 years - tripling globally and quintupling in developing nations - and add more strain to global food supplies. People tend to move up the food chain as their incomes rise, consuming more meat than they might have when they made less money. It takes around seven pounds (3.4 kilograms) of grain to produce a pound of meat, and around three to four pounds of grain to produce a pound of cheese or eggs. "More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet." Scientists and governments were urged to start making changes now to how food is produced. Population experts, meanwhile, called for more funding for family planning programs to help control the growth in the number of humans, especially in developing nations. "For 20 years, there's been very little investment in family planning, but there's a return of interest now, partly because of the environmental factors like global warming and food prices. We want to minimize population growth, and the only viable way to do that is through more effective family planning."

**Be courteous to all, but intimate with few,
and let those few be well tried
before you give them your confidence.**
George Washington

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/22/11 -

NEW ZEALAND - Many parts of Christchurch were left in ruins after the 6.3-magnitude quake. The Prime Minister has declared a national state of emergency as the death toll from Tuesday's earthquake in Christchurch rose to 75. Police have said there is "incredible carnage right throughout the city", with "bodies littering the streets, they are trapped in cars and crushed under rubble." More than 300 people are still missing. Forty-eight were pulled out from collapsed buildings alive overnight. 100 or more could still be trapped.
The earthquake struck at a shallow depth of 5km (3.1 miles) on Tuesday lunchtime, when the South Island city was at its busiest. It was Christchurch's second major tremor in five months, and New Zealand's DEADLIEST NATURAL DISASTER IN 80 YEARS. More than 500 search and rescue personnel, police, fire service staff, soldiers and volunteers worked throughout the night to find survivors trapped under the rubble, many using only their bare hands. "We are getting texts and tapping sounds from some of these buildings and that's where our focus is. It's quite amazing, we have some people we've pulled out and they haven't got so much as a scratch on them, we've had other people where we've had to amputate limbs to get them out." 22 people alone were missing in Christchurch Cathedral, which lost its spire and a section of roof. Twenty-four others have meanwhile been rescued from the Pyne Gould Guinness building and dogs have detected another seven still alive. The earthquake flattened the four-storey structure where hundreds worked. Rescuers have put a cordon around the city's second largest building, the Grand Chancellor Hotel, because it is threatening to collapse. Amid scenes of devastation in the Cashel Street Mall, an injured baby was found in its dead mother's arms. The police are aware several locations, including a bus crushed by debris, where bodies have not yet been removed because their priority is to help those still alive. Emergency shelters have been set up at the city's Hagley Park, a race course, schools and community halls. The Red Cross has been trying to find accommodation for people sheltering outside in tents or under plastic sheeting.
Tuesday's tremor in Christchurch is almost certainly related to the much more energetic event that hit the region last September. The critical difference on this occasion is the ground broke almost directly under the country's second city, and at shallow depth, 5km (three miles) below the surface. Contrast this with September's magnitude 7 quake: its epicentre occurred some 40km west of the city and at a depth of 10km, and it continued to rupture mainly away from the major built-up areas. New Zealand experiences more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which only around 20 have a magnitude in excess of 5.0. Tuesday's was the country's worst natural disaster since a 1931 quake in Hawke's Bay on the North Island killed 256 people. (photos & map)
Yesterday's earthquake caused 30 million tonnes of ice to break off from the country's longest glacier - Tourists rode rolling waves on Tasman Lake. Christchurch's massive earthquake caused a 30 million-tonne chunk of ice (1.2km long, 300m high, 75m wide) to break off from the Tasman Glacier, about 200km away on the West Coast. At Mt Cook village the quake was felt as a minute-long gentle tremor - it did not cause any injuries. There, 16 tourists and two staff members were out on two boats when the quake hit. At the time, they knew nothing of it.
One boat had gone out only 500m from the jetty at the southern end of the lake when the sound of ice splintering startled them. "We heard a loud crack, like a high-powered rifle, looked about, didn't see much happening. We motored on for three or four minutes around the icebergs at the lower end of the lake, then one of the fellows asked, 'Well, where is the actual glacier?"' The guide pointed to the upper end of the lake 6km away. "At that very moment my wife focused on that area with her camera and the whole front of the glacier cut loose and fell into the lake." The moment was spectacular. An estimated 250m of the glacier's terminal wall is below the waterline and the slab - 1.2km wide and 75m-long - that calved its way up out of the lake was like a submarine breaking the surface. "You could see this huge big piece of blue ice coming up out of the water. It was amazing, a whole wall of water, maybe 50 or 60m high came off the ice. All the icebergs started rolling, every single one on the lake was rocking and rolling. They're exposing their beautiful blue undersides."
The 1.2km behemoth has since broken up. Yesterday morning there had been only 10 icebergs on the lake and now there are more than 30. Their intense colours, caused by refracted light, stand in sharp contrast to the lake's sediment-rich water. The tourists felt rolling swells of up to 3.5m. It was safer to keep the boats pointed into the swells rather than try to offload passengers on to the jetty. In all, the group was on the lake for an hour and 15 minutes. After nearly 2m of rain in the past eight weeks, the lake's temperature had risen, warning lake-users of a coming event. Accordingly, the company boats had been keeping 800m away from the glacier's terminal face, but "never in a million years" did anyone expect an earthquake - uniquely - to cause the third-largest calving in the lake's history.


PHILIPPINES - 'Strong lahar flow from Bulusan likely'. A resident volcanologist in Sorsogon province on Tuesday warned residents around Mount Bulusan against the possibility of strong lahar flow from the volcano.
Several towns in Sorsogon may be hit by strong flows of lahar from the volcano during heavy rains. They are seeing indications that ash deposits within the Bulusan volcano’s crater have become heavy. People residing near valleys and river/streams are strongly advised to be vigilant against sediment-laden stream flows in the event of heavy and prolonged rainfall. They are seriously looking into the sides of the Bulusan that might have created vents where magma flow could originate. At least 16 tremors were recorded by Phivolcs within the past 24 hours after the explosion on Monday. They are still waiting for the results of the chemical test done in the samples they sent to the Manila office, which would determine what type of ash powder was spewed by the volcano on Monday. Many observed that the ashfall also included sand, and there were no tremors felt prior to explosion. 108,906 individuals were affected by the explosion. 81 baranggays in at least 3 towns of Sorsogon suffered from severe ashfall few minutes after Bulusan spewed ashes.

Cyclone ATU was 699 nmi N of Auckland, New Zealand.
Cyclone CARLOS was 519 nmi WSW of Broome, Australia.

New Zealand getting "Lucky Escape" from Monster Cyclone. Severe Tropical Cyclone Atu is roaring into New Zealand waters today packing sustained winds of almost 170km/h and gusts to 205km/h. The first outer bands of the cyclone are now reaching the upper North Island as high cloud but the centre of the low remains about 900kms to the north east of Northland.
The powerful category 4 cyclone has taken a miraculous journey. Roaring into life on Saturday and within 48 hours exploding into a category 4 storm, the cyclone has so far missed all the main popular islands, despite tracking very near them. As if trying to avoid problems for populated nations Atu is weaving around the main islands and will do so around the North Island over the next 48 hours as it quite clearly curves further east away from land, before heading more southerly after clearing East Cape. "It's as if Atu knows we are there and doesn't want to cause us more problems." Atu is more powerful than Wilma, which hit Northland at Auckland nniversary Weekend in late January. "Atu is stronger and bigger than Wilma was at this point. It's definitely fair to say that New Zealand is getting a lucky escape from this monster cyclone as it brushes by several hundred kilometres to the east". If Atu had tracked further south the upper North Island would have been facing a "devastating" tropical cyclone.
Big seas are still predicted, with indicating the entire eastern coastline from Northland to Bay of Plenty, and then East Cape to Hawkes Bay, will see big seas and dangerous rips over Thursday and Friday especially.There are currently King Tides which may also increase the chance of coastal erosion and some minor coastal flooding.

Western Australia warned worst of cyclone to come - Tropical Cyclone Carlos has crossed over Exmouth as it slowly starts to head out to sea, but authorities are warning that the most destructive winds are yet to come. The towns of Onslow, Exmouth and Coral Bay are on red alert but there have been no reports of major damage. The category two cyclone is expected to intensify as it moves over open water to the west of North West Cape this afternoon.
The worst of the weather has been coming after the eye passes. "The experience of Tropical Cyclone Carlos has been that the more destructive winds seem to come in just after the passing of the centre of the cyclone. More destructive winds seem to be in the more north-east part of it, so just realise that if you think it's passed, there's still more to follow. "It is possible that the winds can get up to about 150 kilometres per hour, which are destructive winds, so it's very important that people in Exmouth stay indoors, stay in their shelter and keep away from the destructive winds." Heavy rain and high tides are also expected to caused localised flooding in low-lying coastal areas.


MINNESOTA - 74.9 inches of snow have fallen this winter - so far (10th snowiest winter already). The average seasonal snowfall in the Twin Cities is 55.9 inches.The BIGGEST FEBRUARY SNOWSTORM ON RECORD - 13.4 inches. 14.1" snowfall so far in February (13.4" of that fell Sunday and Monday). 2nd snowiest winter (to date) since 1891 in the Twin Cities. Much of Minnesota is experiencing the snowiest winter in nearly 20 years.
Top 10 Snowiest Winters. With 74.9" we've already creacked the "Top 10" this winter - we'll probably go on to reach a p Top 5 winter at the rate we're going. I don't think we'll see more than 98", but at the rate we're going 80-90" is very possible, even likely, before the winter is through with us (sometime in April?). The impact on the flood potential is still unknown, but all this late-season snow obviously can't be a good thing. The heaviest snow bands set up from the Twin Cities metro (especially southern suburbs) westward, along the Minnesota River to Madison, Minnesota, where a whopping 19" piled up. The east-west oriented bands of heavy snow, literally "waves" of heavy snow that kept redeveloping over the south metro vaguely resembled a "train-echo" effect with summertime T-storms, where storms keep reforming over the same portions of counties, resulting in outrageous amounts of rain. Why did the heaviest bands set up over the south metro, and not the north metro? That's the part of meteorology that makes you shake your head - not sure (even with faster, more sophisticated) supercomputers we'll ever be able to pinpoint those kinds of variations. We call this "microscale meteorology", how weather conditions can change over the span of just a few miles, based on terrain, access to water sources, the urban heat island effect, etc.
Even though the center of low pressure was over Evansville, Indiana Monday afternoon, an inverted trough, coupled with a lingering storm in the upper atmosphere, kept the flakes flying over much of central and southern Minnesota, adding another inch or two to the 8-18" snow that fell Sunday. Snow-Water Equivalent. There was just over 1" of liquid water tapped in our recent snowfall, on top of the (glacier-like) snow already on the ground. It's estimated that as much as 4-6" of liquid water is locked in our snowcover. How quickly it thaws in the weeks ahead (and whether the thaw is accompanied by heavy rain) will determine the scope and severity of river flooding in late March and April.
What we have here is an accumulation of coincidences. 2010 was Minnesota's wettest year (34" avg). The most tornadoes on record (104). And now two (1-2 FOOT mega-snowstorms in one winter? That hasn't happened since the Winter of 1991-92. Do you think the 4-5% increase in water vapor (the most abundant greenhouse gas) might be loading the dice in favor of more extremes? Time will tell. (graphs, tables & photos)

ALASKA - Fairbanks, North Pole Dig Out From RECORD SNOW. As much as 18 inches fell in parts of the Fairbanks area Sunday and Monday, with the heaviest snow reported in North Pole. Approximately 12 inches of snow fell at Fairbanks International Airport. “It really varied widely how much snow each area go. The heaviest bands were just south of Fairbanks, across North Pole and Eielson (Air Force Base).”


Baby dolphins are washing up dead along the oil-soaked US Gulf Coast at more than 10 TIMES THE NORMAL RATE in the first birthing season since the BP oil spill disaster, researchers say. Some 17 baby dolphin corpses have been found along the shorelines of Alabama and Mississippi in the past two weeks. "The average is one or two a month. This year we have 17, and February isn't even over yet. For some reason, they've started aborting or they were dead before they were born."
A researcher is awaiting results from a autopsy performed on two of the dolphins yesterday to determine a cause of death. But he called the high numbers an anomaly and said the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which unleashed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over three months, likely played a role. Adult dolphin deaths TRIPLED last year to 89 from a norm of about 30. "We shouldn't really jump to any conclusions until we get some results. But this is more than just a coincidence." Dolphins breed in the spring - around the time of the April 20 explosion that brought down the BP-leased drilling rig - and carry their young for 11 to 12 months. Birthing season goes into full swing in March and April. The oil from the spill spread through the water column in massive underwater plumes and also worked its way into the bays and shallow waters where dolphins breed and give birth.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A powerful earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, during the city’s busy lunchtime rush on Tuesday, flattening office buildings, destroying several homes and killing scores of people. At least 65 people were confirmed dead in the 6.3-magnitude quake. The mayor of Christchurch declared a state of emergency and ordered the evacuation of the city’s downtown area. Television footage from the scene showed emergency crews pulling shaken and injured victims from the stricken buildings, including one four-story structure, the Pine Gould Guinness building, that was partially damaged by the temblor. Emergency crews were working to evacuate people from another building that had caught fire shortly after the quake. The search and rescue mission was being further complicated by repeated strong aftershocks to the zone. The Christchurch Airport was closed and will reopen Wednesday morning only for domestic flights.
Christchurch is New Zealand’s second-largest city with an urban area of nearly 400,00 residents. There were people running through the streets, massive landslides pouring rocks and debris into suburban streets and extensive damage to the iconic Christchurch Cathedral. The quake hit the country’s South Island just before 1 p.m. local time. The tremor was just the latest in a series of large earthquakes to strike in recent months. In September, a magnitude 7.1 quake rocked the same area, but caused no casualties. “There is more substantial damage to buildings than there was during the original earthquake." Tuesday’s tremor was centered about six miles from downtown Christchurch, and was only about three miles underground, possibly making it more destructive.
Several news outlets reported extensive devastation to the nearby town of Lyttelton, nearest the epicenter of the quake, but there were no immediate pictures from the scene. “The earthquake itself was quite violent, a lot of movement. It felt like there were about 10 people shaking the side of it, all at once, it was so much force.” The force of the quake pushed thousands of gallons of water and silt into the streets, and in some places the road appeared to open up and swallow several cars in the beachside neighborhood of New Brighton. "Everything has just changed. What we have now is the clothes that we’re wearing.” (photos)

**The hardest years in life are those between ten and seventy.**
Helen Hayes

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/21/11 -

NEW ZEALAND - The magnitude 6.3 earthquake that hit Christchurch today is still classed as an aftershock despite the increased damage. Today's tremor was "definitely connected" to the first magnitude 7.1 earthquake of September 4. "At some point aftershock sequences do end. The rate does diminish but the magnitude doesn't. Any of them could be quite big."
Multiple fatalities have been reported after the powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island. The tremor, which hit at 1251 (2351 GMT on Monday) only 10km (6.2 miles) south-east of the city at a depth of 5km (3.1 miles), caused widespread destruction. The fire service said numerous people were trapped in buildings, and a state of emergency has been declared. The damage is said to be far worse than after September's 7.1-magnitude quake. There have been several aftershocks since last September's quake, with a 4.9 magnitude tremor hitting just after Christmas.
TV pictures of the aftermath of Tuesday's earthquake showed several collapsed buildings in the centre of Christchurch. People could be seen wandering the rubble-filled streets in distress. Local police said there were reports of multiple fatalities, including that two buses had been crushed by falling buildings. There were also reports of fires and of numerous people being trapped in collapsed buildings. Witnesses said up to 150 people were feared trapped inside the Pyne Gould Guinness building alone. Local television showed bodies being pulled out of rubble strewn around the city centre. It was not known if they were alive. Christchurch Cathedral, an iconic stone building in the centre of the city, was partly destroyed, its spire toppling into the square below. Concrete in Victoria Square had risen at least a metre in some places and there are signs of liquefaction around the Avon river. "The ground is still like jelly, a low level shake all the time." (Christchurch is built on silt, sand and gravel, with a water table under it, so that when there's an earthquake, the water rises and mixes with the sand.)
"When the shaking had stopped I looked out of the window, which gives a great view onto Christchurch, and there was just dust." Power and telephone lines were knocked out, and pipes burst, flooding the streets with water. There is also a shortage of ambulances, so private vehicles are being used to ferry the injured to triage centres. Initial reports said the main hospital had been evacuated, but this was later denied by the police. Christchurch's roads were gridlocked with people trying to flee the city as the authorities have instructed.
"The worrying fear, of course, is that this earthquake has taken place at a time when people were going about their business - it is a very populated time, with people at work, children at school. Sadly, I cannot rule out that there have been fatalities." "Significant" aftershocks should now be expected.
New Zealand lies at the southern end of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, and above an area of the Earth's crust where the Pacific Plate converges with the Indo-Australian Plate. The country experiences more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which only around 20 have a magnitude in excess of 5.0. The last fatal earthquake was in 1968, when a 7.1-magnitude tremor killed three people on the South Island's western coast. (photos & map)

MISSISSIPPI - Oil well fire caused by earthquake? Several Jones county volunteer fire departments responded to a small fire at an oil well site at about 9:15 p.m. Friday. “Firefighters had the fire at the well head out within 30 seconds after starting the attack,” said McKenna. “It was a pretty minor fire and no one was injured.” Cause of the fire has not been determined. “They apparently loss pressure at the well."
They couldn’t help wonder if the loss of pressure had anything to do with the minor earthquake that shook southern Alabama Friday evening. TPeople more than 200 miles away reported feeling the tremblor which the U.S. Geological Service says happened at 5:15 p.m. Friday. There was no immediate damage reported from the 3.5-magnitude earthquake. “It’s just one of those funny things that have you wondering, especially when they began to lose pressure around the same time."


PHILIPPINES - At least 2,000 people have been evacuated to safer grounds following today's explosion on Mt. Bulusan in the central Philippine province of Sorsogon. Military trucks started evacuating the residents living at the foot of the volcano soon after they received a report of the explosion. Mt. Bulusan exploded 9:15 a.m., local time. Ash from the steam-triggered explosion hit as high as two kilometers. Mt. Bulusan is the highest peak in Sorsogon and covers a land area of 3,672 hectares. The volcano began spewing ash and steam in December last year.

Cyclone ATU was 1045 nmi NNW of Auckland, New Zealand.
Cyclone CARLOS was 73 nmi W of Port Hedland, Australia.
Cyclone DIANNE was 751 nmi WNW of Perth, Australia.

AUSTRALIA - Residents of Karratha in Western Australia coast are taking shelter in their homes as tropical cyclone Carlos sweeps close by, threatening to bring gale-force winds and flooding.
A high-level red alert is in place for communities in the Pilbara as category two Tropical Cyclone Carlos tracks along the coast. Yesterday a cyclone-fuelled mini tornado ripped through parts of Karratha, damaging cars and buildings and bringing down power lines. A number of roads have been closed while schools in Karratha, Port Hedland and Roebourne will be closed as the cyclone passes. Oil, gas and port installations in the region have also been battened down in readiness for expected heavy weather.
Carlos is expected to continue moving in a general west southwest track, close to the Pilbara coast. Gales with wind gusts to 100km/h are being experienced between Port Hedland and Karratha and they will extend west towards Exmouth later today and towards Coral Bay early tomorrow. There was a risk of destructive winds with gusts exceeding 125km/h . "Damaging waves and flooding of low lying coastal areas are possible particularly on Tuesday's high tide in the Karratha region." Elsewhere in Western Australia, flood warnings remain in place for the Greenough, Murchison and Gascoyne River catchments.
Disaster aid needed in over 200 communities - The head of Queensland's Reconstruction Authority has identified more than 200 towns and city suburbs that need help after the summer of floods and cyclones. A small number of Australia Defence Force crews are still cleaning up in parts of the state, while other regions have progressed to short and medium-term recovery. An "over-arching" plan to rebuild the state is almost complete but the job will take time. "The state is so big. The area that's been affected by either the cyclone or the floods, there are still some towns that I have not been able to get to."

NEW ZEALAND - Large swells likely as Cyclone Atu brushes past. The latest cyclone to grow out of the Pacific is forecast to brush past New Zealand, creating a risk of high seas on the North Island's east coast. Cyclone Atu formed on Saturday, true to its name ("Saturday-born"), and is expected to reach New Zealand waters by Wednesday. Atu is now a category two storm moving southwest from Vanuatu at a speed of 8km/h. The Fiji Meteorological Service has predicted it could turn into a category three cyclone, with winds of around 120km/h. The storm followed a similar pattern to Wilma, and could yet mimic that huge cyclone. "The sea temperatures are favourable, the atmosphere is favourable and Atu will cross the same body of water that saw Wilma go from a category 2 storm to a category 4 storm back on Auckland Anniversary weekend." There is only a 20 per cent chance of the cyclone hitting New Zealand directly but a close miss could still have some impact. "We're very lucky, it's going to be incredibly close, but not quite close enough." The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre had revised the cyclone's path to closer to New Zealand but the weather system was unlikely to cause serious damage on the coastline.
The greatest threat was from raised sea levels anywhere between Northland and the East Cape. Atu could create large swells and coastal erosion in Gisborne and Hawkes Bay, the most exposed spots. The cyclone's arrival in New Zealand waters will also coincide with a 3.5m tide in Auckland and a 3m tide in Coromandel.
"This is the third cyclone to pass us to the east. When we've seen what they've done to Australia, New Zealand has been lucky to be on the outskirts of where they've hit." Tropical cyclones lose a lot of energy when entering New Zealand waters because their oceans are too cold to fuel them. After a blisteringly hot start to February, which put New Zealand on track for its hottest ever month, the last week was slightly colder. The first signs of autumn were beginning to show, with cooler mornings as a result of longer nights, which give the warm air more time to cool down.

VANUATU - Hundreds evacuated ahead of approaching Cyclone Atu Officials on the island nation fear the cyclone could worsen food shortages already afflicting the region.
Nearly 400 people were evacuated from their homes on the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu as Cyclone Atu approached, bringing gale force winds and torrential rain to the region. Over the weekend the storm battered the archipelago. 381 people had been evacuated from the island’s low-lying areas near the capital Port Vila. At the time of the evacuation, the cyclone was moving in a southerly direction towards Tafea province. The most recent data shows Atu will stay out at sea. Last month Tafea was badly battered when Cyclone Vania hit and many officials were worried that this recent storm would compound food shortages there.


AUSTRALIA - Water has flooded a collection point set up to help Brisbane's flood victims, ruining half of the donated goods stored there. Overnight storms caused flash flooding in the suburb of Spring Hill, sending 30cm of water through the agricultural pavilion at the RNA showgrounds, where a flood relief centre has been based. It is a cruel blow for families still struggling after January's floods. "The damage is huge. We've easily lost half of the donations. It's devastating." The centre has been helping about 100 families a week, providing them with everything from food parcels and clothes, to bedding and kitchen items.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Space weather could wreak havoc in gagdet-driven world - The Earth just dodged a solar bullet. But it won't be the last. Experts say a geomagnetic storm, sparked by a massive solar eruption similar to the one that flared toward the Earth on Tuesday, is bound to strike again, and the next one could wreak more havoc than the world has ever seen. On Tuesday at 0156 GMT, the strongest solar eruption since 2006 sent a torrent of charged plasma particles hurtling toward the Earth at a speed of 560 miles (900 kilometers) per second. The force of the Class X flash, the most powerful of all solar events, lit up auroras and disrupted some radio communications, but the effects were largely confined to northern latitudes. But "the magnetic fields were aligned parallel so not much happened. In another case, things might have been different." Modern society is increasingly vulnerable to space weather because of our dependence on satellite systems for synchronizing computers, navigational systems, telecommunications networks and other electronic devices. A potent solar storm could disrupt these technologies, scorch satellites, crash stock markets and cause months-long power outages, experts said Saturday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting.
The situation will only get more dire because the solar cycle is heading into a period of more intense activity in the coming 11 years. "This is not a matter of if, it is simply a matter of when and how big. The last time we had a maximum in the solar cycle, about 10 years ago, the world was a very different place. Cell phones are now ubiquitous; they were certainly around (before) but we didn't rely on them for so many different things. Many things that we take for granted today are so much more prone to the process of space weather than was the case in the last solar maximum." The root of the world's vulnerability in the modern age is due to global positioning systems, or GPS devices, that provide navigational help but also serve as time synchronizers for computer networks and electronic equipment.
The experts admitted that currently, little that can be done to predict such a storm, much less shield the world's electrical grid by doing anything other than shutting off power to some of the vulnerable areas until the danger passes. "Please don't panic. Overreaction will make the situation worse."

**Labor to keep alive in your breast
that little spark of celestial fire,
called conscience.**
George Washington

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
2/20/11 -


HAWAII - Lava lake at Kilauea has reached ONE OF ITS HIGHEST LEVELS EVER. Scientists on the Big Island say it's been an especially active week at Kilauea volcano - as it continues to erupt in two locations: on the east rift zone and at the summit.
The volcanic activity along the summit has died down a little since Monday - when the lava lake at Halemaumau crater reached one of the highest levels ever observed. On Monday, they watched as a number of rocks fell into Kilauea's summit vent. Sulfur dioxide emissions remain elevated. "Large sections of the rim of the vent fell into the lava lake below. It caused a lot of degassing, and in a few instances, some explosive events that caused a lot of dusty, ashy plumes to rise skyward."
The lava lake at Halemaumau crater reached one of its highest levels ever this week - indicating an increase in the volume of magma. It's been rising steadily since last November, but volcanologists aren't yet sure of its significance. "We're still seeing these rise fall cycles in the lava lake. Rock falls are still occurring, again not as many as on Monday or Tuesday, but the vent walls continue to break apart, and we expect we'll continue to see this activity in the foreseeable future."
The eruption at Kilauea's east rift zone continues, as well. It's an area peppered with homes and structures, but right now, no homes are in imminent danger. Kilauea remains the world's longest, continually-erupting volcano.

CONGO - Goma volcano set for another eruption. Previous eruptions in recent times may be dwarfed by the expected next eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo, which towers over the Eastern Congolese city of Goma. Nine years ago, in January 2002, when the region’s most active volcano erupted, the reportedly rather liquid lava swiftly covered a sizeable part of the city and even brought air transport to a complete standstill, when a portion of the runway was covered by lava, which when finally cooled down, was measured to be 6 and more feet thick and as wide as a kilometer, leaving total destruction in its wake and making over 120,000 residents homeless.
The eruption then reached as far as Lake Kivu and only a major effort supported by the UN and international partners made the airport somehow usable again, albeit with a still shortened runway, which makes the use of larger aircraft impossible and impacts on the operations of the airport even with smaller jets. Accidents have, in fact, been recorded at Goma attributed at the shortened runway making every landing and take off an adventure of sorts. An earlier major eruption in 1977 also caused similar havoc, but population numbers were considerably less back then and the main path of the lava was not directed frontally against Goma. There are reportedly only two main exit routes for the lava, as researchers have established and, therefore, the chance of Goma being hit again during the next eruption is 50/50.
While in the past, ahead of major eruptions, earthquakes and seismic events indicated increased activity of the volcano, the absence of monitoring equipment is hampering the ability of researchers to adequately monitor the mountain and predict imminent eruptions. Neither the volcano operators nor the population at large seems overly concerned at this stage, in spite of recent pictures being taken from aircraft flying over the crater, showing it once again filling up with enormous quantities of lava. A few months ago it was reported here that the lava’s reflections on low clouds could be seen all the way into Uganda, again underscoring that there is indeed now a growing possibility of another upcoming eruption, many of which in the recorded history of the volcano have come at 10-year intervals.
The African Rift Valley, which extends from the Red Sea across much of Africa to Malawi, has always been an active seismological zone – as another active volcano, Mt. Ol Donyo Lengai in Tanzania demonstrates – but of late, disquieting reports have emerged that THE UNDERWATER RIP IN THE RED SEA SEEMS TO BE WIDENING, as minor eruptions have been reported from the border area between Ethiopia and Djibouti. It is there that the ground has also lowered and subsequently seismic monitoring has been substantially increased to provide early alerts of imminent developments. In the Eastern African part of the Rift Valley, and especially for Mt. Nyiragongo, this does not seem to be the case at present, however, leaving the populations near such volcanos at greater risk. With no meaningful evacuation plans in place, the Goma volcano can be considered a disaster in waiting. Should, in fact, the airport during a future eruption be closed again, feasible evacuations and the arrival of supplies and equipment will then only be able to reach Goma by road from Rwanda or else across the lake, where shipping capacity is also minimal.

Cyclone ATU was 1208 nmi NNW of Auckland, New Zealand.
Cyclone CARLOS was 43 nmi WNW of Broome, Australia.
Cyclone DIANNE was 740 nmi WNW of Perth, Australia.

AUSTRALIA - Communities in the Kimberley and Pilbara are on cyclone and flood alert as tropical cyclone Carlos reforms over the sea west of Broome. After moving over the Top End from the east, the reformed Cyclone Carlos is expected to move west southwest roughly parallel to the Pilbara coast and intensify today and tomorrow. This morning a cyclone warning was current for coastal areas from Cape Leveque to Mardie including Broome, and a cyclone watch was current for Pilbara coastal areas from Mardie to Cape Cuvier. "There is the risk of destructive winds with gusts exceeding 125km/h on Tuesday along the Pilbara coast and very destructive winds with gusts exceeding 165km/h possible west of Mardie later on Tuesday." The bureau said significant stream rises and widespread local flooding was possible between Port Hedland and Karratha from early on Tuesday.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Atu is continuing to intensify with Fiji's Meteorological Service now classifying it as a category four storm. It is forecast to strike Vanuatu. While it will brush New Zealand, it will pass there out of harm's way. However big seas are still a possibility between Northland and East Cape from Wednesday to Friday.
The risk of Cyclone Atu brushing New Zealand increased a little overnight. The storm may come a little closer to eastern New Zealand than was initially thought. It's expected that Atu will be closest to the country on Thursday but a direct hit still remains very unlikely. The Fiji Met Service said winds near the centre of the category one storm have picked up and the air pressure has fallen further as the cyclone intensifies over Vanuatu.

MADAGASCAR - On a sliding scale of hardship, a cyclone in February has more serious implications for food security than a similar tropical storm slamming into Madagascar in January. Cyclone Bingiza ripped into the northeast of the island on 14 February, killing at least six people as high winds shredded the flimsy homes of subsistence farming and fishing communities. "This is the worst time of year for a cyclone, as even if it comes in January they can restart cultivating with shorter cycle rice varieties, but if it comes in February they can't restart in time for the April harvest....If water stays on the rice for a week it will be ruined."
Bingiza made landfall at dawn in the Sava region, also damaging fields of vanilla, a cash crop, and the livelihoods of fishing communities in the Masaola pensinsula. The cyclone crossed the island and went into the Mozambique Channel, then turned back and visited Madagascar's southern reaches, which experienced flooding in the weeks preceding the cyclone. "All the rice fields are flooded and all the harvests are lost. Damage is much worse to the south than the north, and now Bingiza is coming back this way, which means it will get much worse."
As far as was known at present, Bingiza had left about 7,500 without adequate shelter. The World Food Programme had prepositioned stocks of rice and canned vegetables, as cyclones are predictable natural disasters in Madagascar's northern coastal towns. "The damage is much less serious than we expected for a cyclone of this strength, but in the months that follow there could be a negative impact on nutrition, as there has been damage to crops such as cloves and rice." The rebuilding of houses with easily accessible materials from surrounding forest has begun, but the "most vulnerable, like the disabled, single females and the elderly, do not have the strength or help to go to the forest and chop wood or gather materials needed to rebuild. We have found [in the past] some of these people, months later, living on the ground under just the collapsed roof."


MIDWEST - Hundreds of flights have been canceled at major airports in Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois and officials in several states, including Wisconsin, are advising people to stay off the highways. The National Weather Service reports blizzard conditions in Minnesota. The storm stretches from Montana to Michigan and is moving east. The National Weather Service predicts it will bring a wintry mix across the upper Midwest for several days. Weather service forecasters predict the storm will drop 10 to 15 inches of snow on Minneapolis by Monday afternoon. [already have 13 inches on Sunday evening.] The weather won't be much better Monday morning, but at least a light holiday commute will make more room for snow plows. The blowing snow was expected to make clearing the roads difficult.
As the storm moved east, it also prompted travel warnings in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation warned that roads could become impassible due to a mix of snow, freezing rain and ice. In Michigan, state police cautioned that mix of snow and freezing rain was expected through midday Monday in the southwestern part of the state. On Sunday, southbound U.S. 131 was closed for a time after dozens of vehicles crashed in Mecosta County near Big Rapids.

Parts of Moscow Region embraced COLDEST NIGHT IN 60 YEARS - An anti-cyclone pumping Arctic air into the lower latitudes not only brought the cloudless sky, but also RECORD FROST to Central Russia with a significant temperature drop to minus 33 degrees Centigrade on Wednesday night. Within the Moscow region, the epicenter of the cold was Klin, where the temperature may reach minus 33.4 degrees Centigrade, a record low for Klin in the past 60 years. The forecast also noted that the temperature might fall to minus 26 degrees Centigrade in Moscow overnight.
Friday's temperature was nearly 15 degrees below the average of February. Saturday was expected to be the turning point in the recent extreme weather. Starting from the weekend, temperatures will start slowly to rise in Moscow and its surrounding regions. Russia has faced periods of alternating extreme weather conditions since last summer in 2010, when the historically high temperatures have scorched the country for about two months, causing severe drought and wildfires. Experts said the weather becomes more extreme due to global climate change as well as the Solar multi-year circular activity.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

**The advantage of a bad memory is
that one enjoys several times
the same good things for the first time.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

**The advantage of a bad memory is
that one enjoys several times
the same good things for the first time.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

**The advantage of a bad memory is
that one enjoys several times
the same good things for the first time.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/19/11 -

2/18/11 -

Tiny energy bursts may foretell massive earthquakes - It happened in Turkey, but other destructive temblors have no 'foreshocks'. Bursts of energy rocked the Earth in the hour right before an earthquake devastated Turkey in 1999 - a new finding that might one day help researchers predict major quakes. Many large earthquakes are preceded by smaller rumbles known as foreshocks. However, there is apparently no way to distinguish these tremors from other small quakes that don't portend a larger temblor. At the same time, many large earthquakes do not seem to have any foreshocks.
The magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit near Izmit in northwest Turkey in 1999, killing at least 17,000 people and leaving nearly 500,000 homeless. The calamity was one of the best-recorded large earthquakes to date, since researchers had seismic recording stations very close to the fault. Now, after analyzing the deluge of information from before, during and after the earthquake, they have detected repeated, accelerating blips of seismic activity before the Izmit quake, near the point where the rupture began. Theoretical and laboratory studies of earthquakes suggest they should be preceded by slow slipping along a fault in the Earth. Before the Izmit quake began, the research suggests the fault slipped irregularly but near-continuously for 44 minutes, generating the bursts the scientists detected, as well as increasing low-frequency seismic noise. "This will motivate seismologists to look more for these types of signals before earthquakes. Seismologists have kind of given up finding such signals in the early nucleation phase before earthquakes...What we found is encouraging, but we don't know how common these signals will be."

Cyclone ATU was 1232 nmi NNW of Auckland, New Zealand.
Cyclone DIANNE was 685 nmi NW of Perth, Australia.

Cyclone Carlos menacing Western Australia's far north - As this weekend's floodwaters continue to recede, the main concern of residents in Carnarvon is ex-tropical cyclone Carlos, which is menacing the far north of Western Australia. Carlos is expected to re-form into a category two cyclone over the ocean west of the Kimberley coast some time tomorrow. "Then it does look that longer term it will move more towards the coast but will more likely cross somewhere near Exmouth, north of Carnarvon. But longer-term they do get a bit unpredictable." As Carlos moves down the Pilbara coast towards Exmouth and Carnarvon, there is the possibility of destructive winds. Communities in WA's Kimberley region - including Kuri Bay, Cockatoo Island, Cape Leveque, Derby and Broome - are being told to prepare for wind gusts of up to 100km/h. The weekend's flood will put back by between two to four weeks the winter harvest of vegetables such as tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers and pumpkins. Many areas on the outskirts of Carnarvon that were inundated had already been severely damaged by the floods which devastated the region before Christmas.


U.S. - Strong winds caused fires, power outages, flight delays and other problems throughout much of the eastern United States on Saturday. The National Weather Service said the winds were caused by the same Canadian storm that had brought unseasonably warm temperatures to the region earlier in the week. Multiple fires occurrred around New Jersey, caused by winds as high as 60mph (97kph) and low humidity. Fires also ran rampant in North Carolina's Piedmont region, with at least one brush fire in each one of the 44 counties in the region. "There are definitely more fires than we can handle at this point." In the Washington, D.C., area, brush fires closed several roads, including parts of Interstate 95. The strong winds also blew over the National Christmas Tree, located just south of the White House.
About 15,000 Massachusetts households were without electricity Saturday morning. The outages were scattered throughout the state, which was under a statewide wind advisory, along with Connecticut, Rhode Island and southwest New Hampshire. About 20,000 residents of the Philadelphia suburbs were also without electricity Saturday. Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, thousands were without power in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions. Flight delays were reported at Newark International Airport, JFK International Airport and Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport.


Cabbage and potatoes are Russia's new luxuries - After last summer's devastating fires, staples such as cabbage and potatoes are suddenly pricier than the fancy new imported foods.
Booming developing world demand was already pushing up the price of basic food items when Russia was hit by a catastrophic drought that eventually forced the Kremlin to call a halt to all wheat exports last year. But the emergency measure provided only temporary relief, with both shoppers and analysts noting an alarming new trend developing on the shelves of stores stretching from Vladivostok in Russia's Far East to Kaliningrad near Poland. "Since the summer, potatoes have become unaffordable." Since the middle of December, the price for a kilo of potatoes has almost doubled from 25 rubles (8cents) to more than 40, leaving many shoppers shaking their heads in dismay. "Everything has gone up (in price): sausage, meat, milk ... not to mention vegetables. It is impossible! " The price of such basic staples as buckwheat - the simple grain that Russians eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner - has actually tripled since the summer. Paradoxically to many Russians, a kilo of bananas is now cheaper in most stores that a sack of potatoes - a fact that has not been lost on the higher ups in the Kremlin. "A pack of buckwheat cost about 40 rubles last summer. Now, we sell it for 120 rubles."
Although there are many factors behind the food inflation, analysts point the primary blame on a RECORD DROUGHT that saw harvests fail in 28 Russian regions, slicing half a percent off the country's gross domestic product. "There have been several waves of price hikes" in the wake of the weather anomal. "It started with bread and buckwheat, and was followed by milk and now meat." In January alone, the price of an average consumer basket rose by 5.5 per cent to 2769 rubles ($94). The situation is being compounded by accelerating demand in Asia and poor harvests in big crop-producing states - one of the many sparks that set off the recent social unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. And although Russia is not as sensitive to the price shocks as some of poorer Arab nations, its prices still move lockstep with those on the global market. All the more so because - facing shortages - Russia has been forced to import certain foods. In December alone, imports of potatoes multiplied tenfold and while those of cabbage rose by 150 per cent. With annual inflation expected to come in at almost seven percent this year, the authorities are keen to make sure that food prices do not become an issue at December's parliamentary elections and next years presidential poll.

Friday, February 18, 2011

**My life has been filled with terrible misfortune;
most of which never happened.**

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/17/11 -

ARKANSAS - Cities feel unexplained surge in earthquakes. A small-town Arkansas fire chief says he was briefly puzzled by a thumping sound in his office this week. But then he realized it was just another earthquake. Several small earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 1.8 to 3.5 have rattled his north-central Arkansas city of Greenbrier and nearby Guy this week. The U.S. Geological Service has reported 29 in the area since Sunday, and 700 quakes have hit the region in the past six months. The cause remains somewhat of a mystery. However, some experts say it's likely either a naturally occurring swarm or related to ongoing natural gas exploration in the area. That possibility has many residents blaming the gas companies. There's no proof, though, that they have anything to do with it.

New York City is due for a major earthquake any day now. - "It’s been a rough month as far as these types of stories go. First there was that Betelgeuse supernova deal, then a killer asteroid hitting us in 2036 and the discovery of a hidden planet in our solar sytem which could be the infamous ‘Planet X’." The seismographic network for the Northeast at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory says a New York quake "can happen anytime soon. We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.” New York has never experienced a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake, which are the most dangerous. But magnitude 5 quakes could topple brick buildings and chimneys. Oh well, on the bright side, the asteroid could always hit us before the earthquake does.


JAPAN - More than 2,500 people living near a volcano that has been spewing ash in southern Japan were advised to evacuate their homes Thursday after heavy rain threatened mudslides of accumulated ash.
Shinmoedake began erupting in late January, in its biggest activity in some 300 years. The volcanic activity has disrupted airline flights and blanketed nearby vegetable farms with ash, but there have been no reports of serious injury or deaths. Rainfall of more than 4 mm (0.16 inch) per hour is expected to last until Thursday night, an amount that the local government said could cause mudslides. In the city of Miyakonojo, 63 people had moved to evacuation centers by midday. The town of Takaharu, located at the foot of the mountain on the southern island of Kyushu, also advised about 250 residents and a business to prepare for evacuation in case it was necessary.

HAWAII - At 8:42 a.m. on Monday morning, a section of rock from the north wall of Kilauea Volcano’s summit vent broke away, and collapsed into the lava lake below. Moments later, gas and ash were explosively ejected from Halema‘uma‘u, as this dusty-brown plume shot skyward from the crater. About three hours later, another, larger crescent-shaped piece of the vent rim plummeted into the lava. The rock was estimated to be about 395 ft long and up to 16 ft wide. Shortly thereafter, the lava lake level began to drop. It continued to fall throughout the day, but rose again overnight.
The event had been forecast by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists, mainly because that part of the vent rim was overhung by about 180 ft. Rocks falling from this overhang have been a common occurrence, but spattering episodes and the intense heat of the rising lava lake has increased the number of collapses over the past few weeks. On Monday, blocks of rock hitting the surface of the lava lake created sharp popping sounds that could be heard by visitors at the Jaggar Museum Overlook in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. The churning lava lake within the summit vent also produced a sound likened to crashing waves. Geologists were able to make this recording of these sounds, which were posted to the HVO website.
The continued extension across the summit area, as well as numerous earthquakes, suggests that the volume of magma at the summit has increased. A recent overflight above Halemaumau showed a rising lava surface, at this point as little as 98 yards below the floor of the crater. Meanwhile, further down along the east rift zone, the volcanic display at Pu’u O’o is no less impressive. The USGS filmed footage between February 6-8. Scientists say lava has been erupting sporadically from three vents within Pu`u `Ō `ō crater-a cone on the west side of the crater floor. Unlike the Upper East Rift Zone a few days ago, seismic tremor levels uprift of Pu`u `O`o remained low and steady.

Cyclone BINGIZA was 636 nmi W of Saint Pierre, Reunion.

Cyclone CARLOS was 559 nmi ENE of Broome, Australia.
Cyclone DIANNE was 688 nmi WSW of Broome, Australia.

Heavy rains in Tropical Storm Bingiza, possibly headed for second landfall - Moderate to heavy rainfall, falling at a rate of over 2 inches/50 mm per hour was located in a small area near Bingiza's center of circulation.. NASA satellite data indicates that Bingiza is still maintaining tropical storm intensity and carrying heavy rainfall over the Mozambique Channel as it prepares for its second landfall in Madagascar.
Deadly Tropical Cyclone Bingiza, which crossed over northern Madagascar three days ago, has continued to affect Madagascar while moving along Madagascar's west coast. Bingiza had weakened from a powerful category 3 tropical cyclone with sustained winds of 100 kts (~115 mph/185 kmh) to tropical storm force winds of about 35 kts (~40 mph/65 kmh) when the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite passed almost directly overhead on February 16. On February 17 Bingiza's maximum sustained winds were near 40 knots (46 mph/74 kmh) with higher gusts. It was about 220 nautical miles west-southwest of Antananarivo, Madagascar. . Bingiza was moving south at 7 knots (8 mph/13 kmh).
Multispectral satellite imagery showed that Bingiza still has strong bands of thunderstorms wrapping around it from the northwest into the southeast quadrant. The low-level center of circulation is partially exposed to outside winds, however. Exposure to outside winds leaves the storm vulnerable for weakening. A low to mid-level ridge (elongated area of high pressure) located to the northeast of Bingiza is what's guiding it southward, and then it is forecast to track along the ridge and move southeastward in the next day taking it near or over land. Some models show that the storm may meander and remain over water while others take it inland. Whether it stays near the coast or moves inland, Bingiza is still forecast to weaken and is expected to dissipate by the weekend.

A cyclone warning has been cancelled for Western Australia's northwest coast after the category 2 system Dianne began moving out to sea, but communities remain on alert for flooding.

Ex-Tropical Cyclone Carlos is continuing to drench regional towns south-west of Darwin, causing extensive flooding in low-lying areas across the region. After causing extensive damage to roads and homes across the Top End, Darwin residents breathed a sigh of relief yesterday morning when the category 1 storm weakened to a tropical low and moved south west.
But as the Territory's capital began the recovery and clean-up, rivers and dams outside Darwin reached capacity and began to overflow. Yesterday afternoon, the Adelaide River, about 120km south of Darwin, had risen almost four metres in just a few hours to 11.2 metres. Adelaide River reached a peak of 12.2 metres at 10pm (CST) last night, but had since receded significantly. By this morning Daly River had reached 13.5 metres and had started to encroach on low-lying homes. The Aboriginal community of Daly River, with a population of about 500, often becomes isolated in the wet season when roads are cut off by rising water. No decision had been made yet to evacuate people from Daly River, but careful monitoring and assessment of the situation was ongoing.
A cyclone watch is still current for coastal areas from the Daly River Mouth in the NT to Kalumburu in Western Australia, including Port Keats, Kalumburu and Wyndham. At 3.30am (CST) ex-Tropical Cyclone Carlos was over land and estimated to be 155 kilometres south of Darwin, moving south southwest at 5km/h. The low was expected to continue moving southwest and into the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf on Saturday. In the 24 hours prior to 9am (CST) today the Daly River Police Station received 442mm of rain. Darwin Airport recorded 40mm for the same period.


MYSTERIOUS SUN HALOES - Most sun haloes are circles. They surround the sun when sunbeams hit ice crystals in the air. The haloes this week in Finland, however, were not circular. Finland has had a spate of elliptical halos over the last few days produced by ice crystals precipitating out of low clouds. "Elliptical halos are RARE and we do not understand how they are formed. A popular theory is that hexagonal plate-shaped crystals with very blunt pyramidal ends make them. But ray tracing simulations using these crystals do not reproduce the halo’s fine detail properly. Moreover, these crystals are physically unrealistic because crystal faces follow lines of atoms in the crystal lattice – blunt pyramidal ends do not! The mystery remains." (photo)