Monday, February 14, 2011

**I don't understand why Cupid was chosen
to represent Valentine's Day.
When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind
is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.**
Author Unknown

Have a delightful Valentine's Day!

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/13/11 -

Geologist predicts next big quake spot in U.S. Midwest - Likely will NOT be in New Madrid. This year marks the bicentennial of the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812, which are the biggest earthquakes known to have occurred in the central U.S. A noted geologist says his research of earthquakes in China may hold clues as to where the next big earthquake will hit in the Midwest. This year marks the bicentennial of the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812, which are the biggest earthquakes known to have occurred in the central U.S.
But if the professor of geological sciencesi is correct, the next big quake will occur someplace other than the New Madrid fault system. He examined records from China, where earthquakes have been recorded and described for the past 2,000 years. Surprisingly,he discovered that during that time period, big earthquakes have never occurred twice in the same place. "In north China, whire large earthquakes occur relatively frequently, not a single one repeated on the same fault segment in the past 2,000 years,.So we need to look at the big picture of interacting faults, rather than focusing on the faults where large earthquakes have occurred in the recent past."
The New Madrid quake may have loaded increasing stresses on the Wabash Valley Seismic fault system. It extends through the lower Wabash Valley, near the borders of Southern Illinois and Southwestern Indiana. "The two areas seem likely to be mechanically coupled in that stress transfer following large earthquakes in one could affect earthquake occurrence in the other. Numerical modeling indicates that stress transfer following the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes may be loading faults in the Wabash Zone." The last major quake to occur along the Wabash Seismic Zone was on April 18, 2008, when a magnitude 5.2 quake centered near Belmont, Ill., was felt across a wide area of the Tri-State. Researchers are now using GPS to test their theory. "GPS measurements in the past two decades have found no significant strain in the New Madrid area."


NORTH KOREA preparing for eruption of Mt. Baekdu. Two geography professors involved in a Mt. Baekdu expedition team have recently been to Pyongyang to attend a seminar on Mt. Baekdu volcanic activity. They said there were two evacuation drills in Samjiyon, Taehongdan and Pochon, Ryanggang Province since last fall. Fears of an eruption were also behind the sudden suspension of the Mt. Baekdu tourism railroad project, slated for completion by 2012, and that of a mammoth tourism and athletics facility for winter sports nearby, to be completed the same year.
"Concerned about a possible eruption of Mt. Baekdu, the North Korean regime is pushing ahead with negotiations with China on the development of underground resources and urban buildings in Ryanggang and North Hamgyong Provinces. The North apparently plans to secure Chinese help in reconstruction in case Mt. Baekdu erupts." The mountain is sacred in North Korea, which claims its founder Kim Il-sung and his family were born there. "The regime has publicized Mt. Baekdu as the symbol of the Kim Il-sung dynasty, so they are keeping quiet about a possible eruption. That could mean the damage will be much greater if the volcano does erupt."

HAWAII - New volcano images by USGS, earthquakes “a concern”. A new spattering vent has formed on the south side of the Thanksgiving Eve Breakout shield, and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory caught a glimpse of the activity just before daybreak on February 4. The active Pu’u O’o crater floor is slowly filling the east side of the vent with lava. Meanwhile, at Kilauea’s summit, the circulating lava lake in the collapse pit deep within the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater has been visible via Webcam throughout the past week. Volcanic gas emissions remain elevated, resulting in high concentrations of sulfur dioxide downwind.
Last Wednesday, "nineteen earthquakes were strong enough to be located within Kilauea volcano, sixteen within the upper east rift zone (starting beneath Puhimau Crater and migrating both uprift to Keanakako`i Crater and downrift to Hi`iaka Crater) and three scattered beneath a broad area extending both north and south of the upper east rift zone nearer Makaopuhi and Napau Craters; the ongoing seismicity within the upper east rift zone continues to be a concern.” (Visit the HVO Web site ( for detailed Kilauea and Mauna Loa activity updates, recent volcano photos, recent earthquakes, and more.)

One eruption leads to another - Monitoring one volcanic eruption can provide clues to where the next will strike, scientists have suggested. They learned this by monitoring a sequence of 13 volcanic events in Ethiopia's Afar depression, an area of great geological activity where the African and Arabian tectonic plates are pulling apart to form what will eventually become a new sea. They then built a computer model that showed where magma is likely to be intruding into cracks in the Earth's crust and deforming it. This in turn let them work out how one volcanic event makes it more likely another will follow in a particular place, by increasing the stress in the crust.
The breakthrough could let scientists predict where there's the greatest risk of a volcanic eruption, letting governments and emergency services focus their planning on the most vulnerable areas. It won't provide information on when eruptions will happen - but it will help narrow down the location. 'It's VERY RARE to have so much activity in such a small area and over such a short period, and this is what let us understand how one event influences the next. We could see that the volcanic activity always happened where the last event had jacked open the crust. It's a domino effect.' While the method might not produce the concrete warnings that civil emergency planners might ideally like, it will let them identify areas that are at risk and prepare accordingly.
'The technique of monitoring changes in geological stress is now routinely used to understand how an earthquake has affected the risk of future earthquakes in its neighbourhood. We should start to use similar techniques for volcanic eruptions. It's only part of the picture, but for example it could let us say that certain volcanoes need to be monitored more closely.' The technique might have to be adapted to work in other areas, such as those in which eruptions are being produced by tectonic plates being crushed together rather than pulled apart, but it should work in most situations.
'If you look at this year's eruptions at Ejafjallajokull in Iceland, by estimating the tension in the crust at other volcanoes nearby, you could estimate whether the likelihood of them erupting has increased or decreased."
Other scientists had previously suggested one eruption could influence another by stressing the crust in particular areas, but this study is the first time that it has been possible to test the idea by examining so many events.

Volcanic Eruption Linked to Green Tides - A huge plankton bloom in the North Pacific is traced to a volcanic eruption and offers a test in iron fertilization. A large and VERY UNUSUAL plankton bloom in the North Pacific has been tracked, whodunnit style, to the eruption of a remote volcano in the Aleutian Islands. The volcano-plankton connection is the iron-rich volcanic ash that was launched out of the Kasatochi volcano and then rained down into the ocean. "People have hypothesized about it in the past. This the first time we have observed it."
Researchers had found signs of the UNPRECEDENTED bloom, but it wasn't until they all started talking to one another at a meeting that they discovered they had encountered something in common affecting one to two million square kilometers of ocean. The Kasatochi volcano stood out because it was timed right and had a wide plume of ash which covered the vast area of the plankton bloom. "I hadn't put any credence in it until we eliminated the other possibilities."
The same sort of plume was not seen in the North Atlantic from the recent Icelandic volcanics because those waters are not iron deficient. In the north Pacific, just about everything is present for plankton to thrive except iron. So all it takes is a jolt of iron to start a plankton explosion. The discovery also provides scientists with data on the largest case of ocean iron fertilization ever measured. According to the field measurements, the bloom sucked up 0.01 petagrams of carbon (10 million metric tons). That's just half of one percent of how much carbon the oceans take up all year and an even smaller fraction of the 6.5 petagrams or so of carbon humans release into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.

Cyclone BINGIZA was 394 nmi NW of Saint Pierre, Reunion.

Cyclone set to hit Madagascar - The full force of Bingiza is expected to strike near the town of Mananara Avaratra in the northeast. Madagascar is being lashed by heavy rains, and things are promising to get worse over the next few days. Tropical Cyclone Bingiza is creeping ever closer. For the last few days it has been swirling a few hundred kilometers off-shore, with just the outer fringes of the storm thrown westwards towards the island. These outer bands have already brought a lot of rain, but the centre of the storm where the worst of the weather is, has not reached Madagascar yet. Currently the eye of the storm has sustained winds of nearly 160kph, and gust of 195kph. This makes it the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane, but the storm is still expected to strengthen as it creeps slowly westwards.
The full force of Bingiza is expected to strike today, near the town of Mananara Avaratra in the northeast. The town is home to over 30,000 people, with the majority relying on agriculture for their livelihood. A storm of this size will unleash damaging winds and flooding rains capable of tearing through the more rudimentary style of housing, as well as fields of crops. As the cyclone moves over land, it will weaken rapidly. The winds will ease, but it will continue to give heavy rains for several days. The worst of the rains are forecast to stay to the north of the capital Antananarivo, but the eastern region of Analanjirofo will see 300mm rain, which is bound to cause flooding.
Madagascar is not a stranger to cyclones and on average is battered by three named storms per year, one of which being the strength of a hurricane. The storm season normally runs from November to April, but the past few years have been fairly quiet. This is the first named storm to cross the island this year and last year there was only one major storm. Last year's storm was called Tropical Cyclone Hubert and it was far weaker than Bingiza. In fact Hubert would only be classed as a Tropical Storm in other parts of the world, as the strongest sustained winds were only 70kph. However, the storm still devastated the southeast of the island: 35 people lost their lives in this storm and a further 85,000 were made homeless. With Bingiza being so much stronger than Hubert, there are obviously concerns as the storm bears down. Being one of the poorest countries in the world, Madagascar finds it difficult to recover from such disasters.

A developing tropical cyclone could threaten New Zealand next week, a weather prediction website has warned. Computer models showed a tropical depression with potential to become a severe tropical cyclone forming north of New Zealand. New Zealand, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji would be at risk from the system if it follows current modelling. "As with all tropical lows, it doesn't take much of a shift to spare New Zealand. We'll certainly be hoping for that, but considering we've had four named storms reach our country in just the past few weeks it wouldn't be out of the question for this to do the same." The computer models show a large scale cyclone of potentially category 4 strength forming to the north of New Zealand and tracking south east.
Though it was possible the storm would miss New Zealand, the same models predicted the path and strength of Cylcone Yasi 10 days before it hit north Queensland on February 3. But while a depression is forming, it is too early to tell whether it would threaten New Zealand. A cyclone system simply "does not exist" at this stage. It's so far away it could easily change and in fact it normally does." New Zealand has been hit by tropical storms including cyclones Zelia, Vania and Wilma this summer. NIWA is predicting another five or six tropical cyclones yet to form during cyclone season, which Metservice is predicting to end by May. The cyclone season is likely to run longer this year because of strong La Nina conditions raising water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.


Rivers in the sky - Atmospheric bands of water vapor can cause flooding and extreme weather. An atmospheric river that hit California in late December ) ferried moisture from southwest of Hawaii. Like freight trains loaded with water vapor, atmospheric rivers are long, narrow bands whose winds funnel huge amounts of moisture through the sky. When they hit coasts, these rivers can drop their moisture as rain and cause destructive flooding, as in January 2005 when more than 20 inches of rain soaked southern California, killing 14 people and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
December’s atmospheric river dumped more than 10 feet of snow in parts of the Sierra Nevada, putting the mountains on track for their wettest recorded season. That sort of impact underscores why researchers have recently become fascinated with atmospheric rivers. Completely unknown just over a decade ago, these rivers turn out to be not only a key factor in Western flooding and water supply, but also a major player in the planet’s water cycle. “Water is life, and atmospheric rivers provide water." New research is revealing how these rivers work, as well as helping forecasters better predict their consequences.
An atmospheric river that hit California's coastal mountains in 2009 delivered 16 inches of rain, increasing the year's accumulation by almost 50 percent in one day. At any given time, somewhere between three and five atmospheric rivers are typically ferrying water in each hemisphere. More than 1,000 kilometers long, they are often no wider than 400 kilometers and carry the equivalent, in water vapor, of the flow at the Mississippi River’s mouth. “That has really captured the imagination of scientists. There are only a handful of these events, and yet they do the work of transporting 90-plus percent of water vapor on the planet.”
Ordinary clouds don’t carry lots of water vapor long distances; they rain out as soon as water droplets coalesce and get heavy enough to fall as precipitation. In the 1990s, MIT researchers calculated from wind and moisture data that jets in the atmosphere, which the scientists termed atmospheric rivers, must exist to help ferry water around the planet. Since then researchers have gotten a better look at the rivers, using microwave-sensing instruments carried on polar-orbiting satellites. Solar radiation bouncing off Earth’s surface in microwave wavelengths is affected by the amount of water vapor between the ground and the satellite, but microwaves aren’t affected by clouds the way visible and infrared radiation are. So microwave instruments are able to photograph ribbons of water vapor coursing through the atmosphere. In the early days of atmospheric river research, scientists weren’t sure that the bright bands of water vapor in microwave satellite images really translated to super-soggy conditions. So teams flew research airplanes into storm systems, some of which spawned atmospheric rivers, to measure how wet things got. “You could really sense the juiciness. You could smell it in the cockpit.”
Atmospheric rivers are born because of temperature differences between Earth’s tropics and its poles. During winter, a pole cools compared with the equator, creating a strong temperature gradient across the hemisphere, a difference that causes low-pressure storms to spin off in the midlatitudes. Winds within the storm can funnel moisture into a narrow band at its leading edge - the atmospheric river. A March 2005 river apparently sucked moisture into the Pacific Northwest all the way from the tropics, in the “intertropical convergence zone” where winds from both hemispheres meet. People living on the West Coast are familiar with atmospheric rivers such as the famous “Pineapple Express,” which occasionally ferries moisture directly from Hawaii. But the rivers can also come up through the Gulf of Mexico or along the eastern seaboard.
Scientists are now moving from spotting atmospheric rivers to understanding them and trying to predict their impact. Leading the way is California, which is setting up four atmospheric river observatories along its coast to track the rivers as they arrive. Each river can have strikingly different effects depending on the angle and speed at which it approaches mountain ranges and watersheds. “To be able to nail down specific water basins that are most prone to flooding, you really need to know precisely where that atmospheric river will make landfall. That’s the tough part.” During a November 1994 storm, now known to be an atmospheric river, for instance, forecasters predicted that less than one-tenth of an inch of rain would hit some parts of the San Francisco Bay area. In places, more than 11 inches fell. How that moisture is distributed within the river and how long it sits in one location determine what areas will see the most flooding.
Not all atmospheric rivers are devastating — in fact, most of them are weak — but they cause many of the most extreme West Coast floods. In January, California emergency planners met in Sacramento to run through a doomsday scenario dubbed ARkStorm. Officials tested how they would respond if a series of atmospheric rivers hit the coast one after the other. That scenario was modeled on the rivers that hit in the winter of 1861–62 and flooded the state’s central valley. The capital had to be temporarily moved from Sacramento to San Francisco, and the governor took a rowboat to his inauguration. To better predict such disasters, researchers at NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography are working with state officials to pinpoint the most vulnerable areas. Many times, the river of humidity runs into a mountain, is forced upward, and rains out its water. Other times the river hits the base of a range and shifts to flow around it. Figuring out which process dominates in which locations will help officials better prepare.
Atmospheric rivers may become even more relevant as global temperatures rise. Researchers aren’t sure exactly how climate change will affect the rivers, but warmer air generally means that the atmosphere can hold more water vapor. On the other hand, winds may weaken in a globally warmed world, meaning the rivers might carry more water but be less effective at delivering it. More answers may come within the next few months, as NOAA scientists plan to fly unmanned aircraft into several storms to try to learn even more about atmospheric rivers.


Asian Bank warns of mass climate change migrations - "Climate change will become the biggest driver of population displacements, both inside and across national borders, within the not too distant future." Governments in Asia and the Pacific need to prepare for a large increase in climate-induced migration in the coming years, says a forthcoming report by the Asian Development Bank. Typhoons, cyclones, floods and drought are forcing more and more people to migrate, the bank said in a statement Monday. In the past year alone, extreme weather in Malaysia, Pakistan, China, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka has caused temporary or longer term dislocation of millions of people.
The Bank said it expects this process to accelerate in coming decades as climate change leads to more extreme weather. "No international cooperation mechanism has been set up to manage these migration flows, and protection and assistance schemes remain inadequate, poorly coordinated, and scattered. National governments and the international community must urgently address this issue in a proactive manner."
"In many places, those least capable of coping with severe weather and environmental degradation will be compelled to move with few assets to an uncertain future. Those who stay in their communities will struggle to maintain livelihoods in risk-prone settings at the mercy of nature's whims." Climate change will increase extreme weather events, causing injuries and loss of life, water contamination, infectious diseases, food shortages, and mental health problems associated with disaster and tragedy. During drought and heavy rainfall, a reduction in crop yield and subsistence agriculture leads to malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies.
An increase in the number of very hot days in large cities will exacerbate urban air pollution, while forest fires and dust storms affect air quality over broad areas, both rural and urban. Vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue are highly correlated with temperatures and rainfall patterns. Warmer temperature will increase the geographical habitat of vectors of diseases, such as mosquitoes and rodents.
The climate change "hotspots" include megacities in coastal areas of Asia. These hotspots of climate-induced migration face pressure from swelling populations as rural people seek new lives in cities. Thep roblem is compounded by greater dislocation of people caused by flooding and tropical storms. On the positive side, the report says that if properly managed, climate-induced migration could actually facilitate human adaptation, creating new opportunities for dislocated populations in less vulnerable environments. "Today's challenges are interconnected and complex. Population growth, urbanization, climate change, water scarcity and food and energy insecurity are exacerbating conflict and combining in other ways that oblige people to flee their countries."


Latest solar flare is largest of this solar cycle - Sunday afternoon a medium sized solar flare with a magnitude of 6.6 ejected off the surface of the sun, launching a coronal mass ejection towards Earth. The flare reached its maximum at 17:38 UTC, or 12:38 PM EST. The eruption began at 1728 UTC and ended at 1747 UTC, lasting 19 minutes. The flare ejected from sunspot #1158 and was a moderate solar flare.
There are 3 categories of solar flares. X-class flares are big and are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. M-class flares, which occurred Sunday, are medium-sized and can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth's polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare. Compared to X- and M-class events, C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.
Reports are coming in now that this flare produced a loud blast of radio emissions heard in shortwave receivers around the dayside of Earth. Preliminary coronagraph data show that the explosion produced a fast but not particularly bright coronal mass ejection (CME). The cloud will likely hit Earth's magnetic field on or about Feb. 15th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Sunspot #1158 has been growing rapidly and bustling with C-class solar flares and poses a threat for Earth-directed M-flares. This very active region of the sun is now over 100,000 kilometers wide and more Earth-directed eruptions are likely to occur. (image)