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.