Thursday, March 31, 2011

Concern over Mt. Baekdu eruption growing
- A slew of the latest environmental changes revealed by North Korean officials during a meeting with their South Korean counterparts on Tuesday has put greater weight that the dormant volcano on Mt. Baekdu could erupt. Volcanologists from North Korea cited snowfall in Gaeseong in late March as an UNUSUAL environmental change that they said was UNPRECEDENTED in the relatively southern part of the communist state. A North Korean volcanologist said that following the quake in Japan, they observed underground water shaking and splashing up to 60 centimeters, with usually clean water from wells occasionally turning muddy. He said all of the ABNORMAL events seem to be related to the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit northeastern Japan on March 11.
Many South Korean scientists have cautiously raised speculation that an eruption could take place in four to five years. They have claimed “STRANGE SIGNS,” including minor trembling near Mt. Baekdu in June 2002, and the frequency has increased. A Chinese institute monitoring volcanic activity at Mt. Baekdu acknowledged minor quakes which are too weak to be felt by human beings occur nearly 100 times per day. Among other indicators foreshadowing a future eruption is the height of Mt. Baekdu, which has grown nearly 10 centimeters since 2002. Scientists said bloated magma, a precondition for an eruption, is gradually increasing the height of the mountain as well as raising the temperature on the surface.
Experts say the socio-economic impact on the North in the event of an eruption would be so immense that it could pose a great threat to the isolated regime. “The North Korean regime has no capability to handle such a major natural disaster at all. the eruption will have a negative impact on the hunger-stricken country’s crop production and even lead to the collapse of the regime.” According to a simulation analysis, a large-scale eruption at Mt. Baekdu would send millions of tons of volcanic ash into the air. This huge mass, the analysis showed, would BLOCK THE SUN ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA FOR ABOUT TWO MONTHS, resulting in the average temperature dropping by two degrees Celsius. “It will devastate agriculture, meat/poultry farming and other parts of the food supply chain in North Korea, which poses the greatest risk to its dictatorship." South Korea’s weather agency has pushed to forge a partnership with its counterparts in Japan and China for more accurate weather forecasting including a natural disaster control system. Small-scale eruptions at Mt. Baekdu were recorded in 1413, 1597, 1668 and 1702 - the last activity was recorded in 1903.

Meanwhile, 13 dormant volcanoes in Japan are increasingly showing signs of eruption in the wake of the March 11 quake.

**The higher we soar,
the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/30/11 -

No current tropical cyclones.


AUSTRALIA - Evacuations after more landslips at Hideaway Bay as heavy rain continues in Queensland. Homes have been evacuated in a north Queensland coastal community after heavy rain caused more landslips overnight. Fourteen homes were evacuated in Hideaway Bay, southeast of Bowen, last night after more landslips hit the township following a big slide on Tuesday. Police declared an emergency situation and door-knocked homes.
There are no reports of injuries but because of the poor weather and dark, the level of damage to property can not be established until daylight. Police remain in the area.
There is no relief is in sight for flooded north Queensland, with TORRENTIAL RAIN EXPECTED TO CONTINUE FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK. The Bruce Highway remains cut and Proserpine airport and many local roads have closed as the weather bureau warns heavy falls will continue, with daily totals expected to 200mm. More than 400mm has flooded parts of the coast in the past two days, THE HEAVIEST RAIN IN MORE THAN 20 YEARS. Proserpine, north of Mackay, has been one of the wettest areas with about 450mm in 48 hours - their biggest rainfall since January 1991. Further north, Bowen has had about 400mm, their highest two-day total since February 1991.
Weatherzone meteorologists said it had rained for 23 days in the region this month, about 10 more than normal. "An unstable area of converging winds will slowly edge north and take the focus of rain closer to Townsville in the next few days and further north from the weekend. There's not a huge amount of relief ahead in the Bowen, Proserpine and Mackay area, with another 100mm still possible. Once the heavy rain eases in the next day or two, frequent showers are still likely into next week in fresh southeasterly winds." Flood warnings have been issued for coastal rivers between Townsville and Mackay, including the Don River. Proserpine had had ITS WETTEST MARCH IN AT LEAST 33 YEARS with about 900mm of rain. "Mackay has also had heavy downpours ... lifting its monthly total to over 700mm." The southeast didn't escape the rainfall, with the wet weather causing a spate of car accidents and long delays for commuters across Brisbane throughout the day. (photo)

THAILAND - Severe flooding after days of torrential rain across the south of Thailand has killed at least 15 people and stranded thousands of tourists. Trains to the region have been cancelled and several airports shut. Mainland roads are also blocked. ( 8 photos)
Odd weather puzzles Thailand academics - The extreme weather events that have assailed Thailand during what is normally midsummer - a severe cold snap in the northern half of the country and massive flooding in the South - have forced puzzled professors to throw out their forecasting textbooks. "Our department is seeking what has caused such extreme events. We're studying why a high pressure area from China could persist and reach many parts of Thailand during the summer," the deputy director general of the Meteorological Department said. A lecturer at the Disaster and Land Information Studies Unit of Chulalongkorn University urged the government to invest in and pay more attention to more accurate weather forecasts for particular areas to prevent damage and loss. The current natural phenomenon during summertime was VERY STRANGE.
"A similar situation was recorded in 1986, but that was in early March, between the cold and hot seasons. So it was understandable it could occur in the transition period. But it is now different, as it is cold and rainy in late March. The cold spell will last for two days, and the weather will then go back to hot as usual." The latest flood bulletin for the South issued by the department warned that torrential rain would continue falling over much of the area. People should beware of flooding conditions in the following one or two days. After that, there would be less rain. One said this odd weather was a side effect of La Nina, but another said La Nina was not a direct factor. La Nina appeared in July last year. It caused huge floods in the Northeast, especially in Nakhon Ratchasima, and in the South, Songkhla's Hat Yai district in particular. "According to the latest foreign models that use sea surface temperatures to forecast La Nina and El Nino, La Nina will last until May." Both said this summer would not be as hot as last summer. "Extreme events can cause disasters such as droughts, flooding and cold weather. They will affect plants and agricultural produce or even kill people. So it's time for the government to establish an independent organisation to help forecast possible disasters based on academic knowledge to reduce losses."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Records Show 56 Safety Violations at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants in Past 4 Years - Among the litany of violations at U.S. nuclear power plants are missing or mishandled nuclear material, inadequate emergency plans, faulty backup power generators, corroded cooling pipes and even marijuana use inside a nuclear plant. And perhaps most troubling of all, critics say, the commission has failed to correct the violations in a timely fashion.
"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has very good safety regulations but they have very bad enforcement of those regulations." There are 104 U.S. nuclear power plants. Scientists found 14 "near misses" at nuclear plants in 2010. And there were 56 serious violations at nuclear power plants from 2007 to 2011.
At the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois, for instance, which is located within 50 miles of the 7 million people who live in and around Chicago, nuclear material went missing in 2007. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the operator - Exelon Corp. - after discovering the facility had failed to "keep complete records showing the inventory [and] disposal of all special nuclear material in its possession." As a result, two fuel pellets and equipment with nuclear material could not be accounted for. Two years later, federal regulators cited Dresden for allowing unlicensed operators to work with radioactive control rods. The workers allowed three control rods to be moved out of the core. When alarms went off, workers initially ignored them. At the Indian Point nuclear plant just outside New York City, the NRC found that an earthquake safety device has been leaking for 18 years. In the event of an earthquake, the faulty safety device would not help prevent water from leaking out of the reactor. A lack of water to cool the fuel rods has been the most critical problem at the Fukushima plant in Japan after the recent earthquake and tsunami. "The NRC has known it's been leaking since 1993, "but they've done nothing to fix it."
In June 2009, at the Southern Nuclear Operating Co. Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama, the emergency diesel generator - which would be used in the event of a disaster - was deemed inoperable, after years of neglect. "Cracks in the glands of the emergency diesel generator couplings had been observed since 1988, but the licensee did not recognize the cracking was an indication of coupling deterioratio.". On April 19, 2010, the NRC cited the Tennessee Valley Authority Browns Ferry nuclear plant near Decatur for failing to provide "fire protection features capable of limiting fire damage."
NRC safety records show that inadequate emergency planning was a recurring problem in the industry from 2007 to 2011. Violations included unapproved emergency plans and plan changes, inadequate fire planning and precautions, falsified "fire watch" certification sheets," inadequate flooding precautions, an insufficient tone alert radio system to notify the populace in a potential emergency and faulty assessment of containment barrier thresholds. Corroded water pipes and cooling problems were also recurring issues.
Nuclear fears spark rush for detectors - A scare over irradiated food from Japan has sparked a global rush to buy radiation detectors, with most US dealers reporting they have no more stock to sell.

**One should die proudly
when it is no longer possible to live proudly.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/29/11 -

CANADA - 3.5-magnitude quake near Ontario nuclear facility. No damage was reported after a minor tremor Tuesday near the Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. nuclear laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario. The 3.5-magnitude quake happened about 70 km northeast of Chalk River, around 12:04 p.m. Tuesday. Chalk River is about 200 km northwest of Ottawa. The Chalk River nuclear reactor is run by AECL, which produces medical isotopes at the site.
“Western Quebec gets anywhere from 100 to 150 earthquakes about this size each year. This was one of the larger events this year, but we expect several of its size. Because this is a very isolated area, with little of the population in its vicinity, we haven't received any reports of any damage or injury or calls of feeling the earthquake.” The Chalk River reactor was shut down in May 2009 when a heavy water leak was discovered. Before that, the reactor produced one-third of the world's supply of medical isotopes. “We have assembled a team of specialists to study and assess our current situation. We are focusing on the lessons learned from Japan, that's for sure.”

Swiss Re Expects Quakes To Become Deadlier, Costlier - Earthquakes are becoming deadlier and costlier even if no long-term trend of increasing global earthquake activity has emerged, Swiss Re said Tuesday. "Population growth, the higher number of people living in urban areas as well as rising wealth and rapidly increasing exposures," is behind the increase. Many of these rapidly growing areas are located in seismically active areas. In 2010, earthquakes accounted for almost a third of the losses, with the February earthquake in Chile and the September quake in New Zealand the two costliest events last year. Losses caused by earthquakes will also be above average this year.

OREGON - 3/28/11 - Rumble and Noise Alarms Central Oregon Coast Residents Monday. A small rumbling was felt on the central Oregon coast Monday, along with loud booming noise, lighting up Twitter and Facebook accounts all around the state as people in the region asked each other: Did you feel it? The question now is: was it a quake, a sonic boom or thunder?
Earlier in the day, the USGS office in Seattle said a magnitude 2 earthquake did indeed shake the region at 11:02 a.m. The tiny tremor was 10.5 miles deep, and happened between Tillamook and Newport, somewhere right along the shoreline. Instruments seem to put it about four kilometers outside of Hebo. The two events seem to be unconnected, however. Geographically it matched up, but people in Lincoln City said what they heard and felt occurred around 1 p.m., while the quake was around 11 a.m. Further updates during the day on Monday from instruments on the central coast indicate there was no quake around 1 p.m. The noise and rumble does fit the profile of military exercises off the Oregon coast, which sometimes create sonic booms. A resident did snap a photograph of what appeared to be a thunderhead cloud near Lincoln City just before the noise. The mystery boom and rumble could have been thunder as well. Many people on the central coast have been talking about feeling it via social networks, especially in the Lincoln City and Otis areas. The USGS wants to hear from those who felt it so they can learn more from the event.


NEW ZEALAND - Auckland scientists are currently putting technology in place to monitor the way the earth moves in the city of Auckland, famous for its volcanoes. The Christchurch earthquakes are deadly reminders of the earth's raw power but a different menace lurks below New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland. The city is dotted with volcanoes and no-one knows when a new one could blow. "We hope that we would get some warning, but we could get a new volcano appearing anytime." One of the first signs is smaller earthquakes, which could be pushing magma up to the surface.
About 400 metres down the south stand at Eden Park is a very important borehole - it is one of five boreholes that are listening to the earth move. "There's one of these [boreholes] at 400 metres, and one of these at 26 metres, and it just measures the movements of the earth." The data is then presented and studied as an interactive 3D model, as a joint project between the Institute of Earth and Science Engineering and Nextspace. "It also helps you to map out what's unknown below the surface that might cause a problem - the Canterbury fault lines for instance, were sort of known that they existed but not exactly where they are." Scientists now plan to drill two more holes at least a kilometre deep to keep an eye underground."So that we can pick up more smaller earthquakes, find out where the fault structure is and potentially get an earlier warning of any volcanic activity." Negotiations are now underway with the Auckland Council to cover the $2 million needed.


Tsunami returns island life to a bygone age - Six tsunamis swept onto Oshima Island off Japan's devastated northeast coast after the powerful offshore earthquake on March 11. The disaster severed water supplies and electricity from the mainland, and it may be months before they are restored. Survivors from this community of 3,500 are banding together and resurrecting bygone practices to get by. "I go to the river two or three times a day to get water." Televisions, blow dryers, space heaters lay jumbled amid the splintered wreckage, the appliances all quiet now without power.
An old wood-burning stove, dragged into a small clearing with a view of the ocean below, has become the meeting place for this part of the island, known as Isokusa. Residents, many now living on the upper floors of a nearby hotel, sit on logs and feed scraps of their ruined homes into the stove to stay warm. "The thing I miss most is electricity." Residents subsisted for a couple of weeks on bread and canned food, but now rice and other staples have begun to arrive by small boat.
Two yellow tractors tried to pull a two-story home out of the sea with thick ropes threaded through holes in the roof. "The third tsunami carried my house away." Many families relied on the ocean for their income, raising seaweed, scallops and oysters. This year's crop has been ruined, along with most of the boats and equipment. The streets are littered with smashed oysters, and nets and buoys hang from trees along the shore. "My house and my boat were insured. But you can't insure boiling pots and other equipment." The timing of the disaster was especially painful, as it came a week before they were to harvest this year's crop of "wakame," a seaweed widely used in Japanese salads and soups. One man, whose family has lived on the island for more than 200 years, estimates he has lost 100 million yen ($1.2 million) in product and supplies. Most fishermen have some gear left and, by mixing and matching, they may be able to assemble enough to raise a small crop jointly. "We're going to combine what we have and work together for a year or two. It's impossible to do it alone."

No current tropical cyclones.

Cyclone watch has been declared on the Tiwi Islands with a "broad" tropical low set to bring more monsoonal conditions to the mainland. The low, developing north of Croker Island 80km from Darwin, is moving slowly but is expected to gain momentum as it moves south-west over the Timor Sea tomorrow. The cyclone is expected to develop on Friday with the entire Top End of Australia to cop the effects. Tiwi residents have been warned to clear yards and balconies and commence home shelter and emergency kit preparations.


AUSTRALIA - A RARE plant that flowers underwater and HASN'T BEEN SEEN FOR 20 YEARS has been discovered after drought-breaking rain in Victoria. Eriocaulon Australasicum, otherwise known as Austral Pipewort, was spotted in February by at a wetland in the Wimmera region after disappearing in the mid-1990s. A second population of pipewort was later detected in the Southern Grampians and are now being monitored by staff from the environment department. The biology of the water-loving plant remains a mystery but it is thought to appear after prolonged immersion in warming swamp waters. "The plants can reach a maximum of nine centimetres and start to produce flower shoots under water." Austral Pipewort was first discovered in 1853 but a second specimen was not collected until 1975.


Massive robotic clouds will float above Qatar to shade their World Cup stadiums. Organizers have taken heat over the potentially dangerous summer temperatures in Qatar. But the Arab emirate has come up with a futuristic solution, and as usual, cost is not an issue. Summertime temps in Qatar can reach 122°F (50°C). Players and spectators alike face serious health risks in such sweltering heat, even leading the FIFA president to (albeit unsuccessfully) lobby for playing the World Cup in the winter months.
So it was back to the drawing board for the desert nation, and scientists have hatched a plan to hover giant robotic clouds over the venues to keep out the sun. The clouds are essentially massive blimps, filled with helium, and will be floated above stadiums. Four onboard solar-powered engines will allow the clouds to be controlled from the ground, shifting along with the sun's zenith, serving as a huge umbrella in the sky to shade spectators and athletes. The clouds come at a cost of $500,000 each, pocket change for the Middle Eastern nation.

UN report: Cities ignore climate change at their peril - Urban areas are set to become the battleground in the global effort to curb climate change, the UN has warned. The assessment by UN-Habitat said that the world's cities were responsible for about 70% of emissions, yet only occupied 2% of the planet's land cover. While cities were energy intensive, the study also said that effective urban planning could deliver huge savings. The authors warned of a "deadly collision between climate change and urbanisation" if no action was taken. "We are seeing how urbanisation is growing - we have passed the threshold of 50% (of the world's population living in urban areas). There are no signs that we are going to diminish this path of growth, and we know that with urbanisation, energy consumption is higher."
According to UN data, an estimated 59% of the world's population will be living in urban areas by 2030. Every year, the number of people who live in cities and town grows by 67 million each year - 91% of this figure is being added to urban populations in developing countries. The main reasons why urban areas were energy intensive was a result of increased transport use, heating and cooling homes and offices, as well as economic activity to generate income. The report added that as well as cities' contribution to climate change, towns and cities around the globe were also vulnerable to the potential consequences, such as: Increase in the frequency of warm spells/heat waves over most land areas, Greater number of heavy downpours, Growing number of areas affected by drought, Increase in the incidence of extremely high sea levels in some parts of the world.
As well as the physical risks posed by future climate change, some urban areas will face difficulties providing basic services. "These changes will affect water supply, physical infrastructure, transport, ecosystem goods and services, energy provision and industrial production. Local economies will be disrupted and populations will be stripped of their assets and livelihoods."
A recent assessment highlighted a number of regions where urban areas were at risk from climate-related hazards, such as droughts, landslides, cyclones and flooding. These included sub-Saharan Africa, South and South East Asia, southern Europe, the east coast of South America and the west coast of the US.


NEW ZEALAND - 3/29/11 - 'Desk-sized' meteor streaks across New Zealand's night sky. It wasn't a bird a plane or a UFO, but authorities say a meteor spotted last night in New Zealand skies could have been the size of a desk. Reports of the bright flashing light were received from Auckland and as far south as Wellington about 11pm local time, while some Kiwis reported hearing a sonic boom. Eyewitness reports have described a very bright blue light which lit up the sky like daylight. Police say they received about a dozen calls from people concerned the light was an emergency flare.


Potential H1N1 "Swine Flu" VĂ­rus Outbreak Concern On US-Mexico Border - At least three people have died while infected with the H1N1 flu virus, also known as Swine Flu in El Paso, USA and Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. An epidemiologist for El Paso Department of Health stressed there is no reason for alarm, while at the same time assuring people that the authorities are taking this investigation seriously. Health officials in Cuidad Juarez informed that two of its citizens have died, while others have become infected with flu-like symptoms in what they suspect is H1N1. Chihuahua officials stressed that all of their cases consist of individuals who have been over to the US side of the border, or people who had been in contact with people on the US side of the border. Cuidad Juarez is in the state of Chihuahua. A number of police officers in Cuidad Juarez have come down with flu-like illnesses.
Of the 357 confirmed cases of seasonal flu in El Paso in January this year, three were ill with H1N1, compared to 302 flu cases in February of which 26 had the H1N1 virus. So far in March there have been 126 confirmed cases of flu. There are currently 25 suspected cases of H1N1 infection on the Mexican side of the border. Thirteen of them are not confined to a hospital, they are being seen as outpatients. Cases around the country are much less aggressive. The Ciudad Juarez cases may be linked to a high flu rate in Texas, from which Mexicans travel back (and forth) all the time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Japan's Prime Minister says his government is in a "STATE OF MAXIMUM ALERT" over the crisis at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. He told a Lower House budget committee meeting that the situation "continues to be unpredictable" and that the government "will tackle the problem while in a state of maximum alert".
Radiation leak found outside Japan nuclear reactor - Highly radioactive water has been found for the first time outside one of the reactor buildings at Japan's quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant. The leak in a tunnel linked to the No 2 reactor has raised fears of radioactive liquid seeping into the environment. Plutonium has also been found in soil at the plant, but not at levels that threaten human health.
Up until now, pools of water with extremely high levels of radiation have only been detected within the reactor buildings themselves. The water was found in an underground maintenance tunnel, with one end located about 55m (180ft) from the shore. Radiation levels were measured at 1,000 millisieverts an hour, a dose that can cause temporary radiation sickness. This is the same as the levels found on Sunday. However, Tepco said there was no evidence that the contaminated water had reached the sea. Tepco later said that plutonium had also been detected in soil at five locations at the plant but not at levels that represented a risk to human health. It said the results came from samples taken a week ago and would not stop work at the plant. Plutonium was used in the fuel mix for only one of the six reactors, number three.
As well as shortages of food, water and fuel, survivors are also having to endure frequent aftershocks. Japan lifted a tsunami warning earlier on Monday that was issued after a 6.5-magnitude quake struck off the northern coast. The quake is not reported to have caused any injuries or damage. In Miyagi prefecture - one of the worst-hit areas - the authorities estimate it will be three years before all of the rubble and debris has been cleared.

**There is one thing one has to have:
either a soul that is cheerful by nature,
or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art, and knowledge.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/28/11 -

BURMA - Junta Possibly Concealing Earthquake Casualties. Hundreds of earthquake victims who were hospitalized in Tachilek on Saturday had disappeared by Sunday, in what sources say was a Burmese government effort to downplay damage from the magnitude 7.0 tremor. On Saturday, reporters visited the Tachilek Hospital and saw that it was overwhelmed by hundreds of earthquake victims, many of them forced to stay out in the open air. Hospital staff estimated at the time that about 700 patients were being treated. Reporters returned to the hospital on Sunday, but saw no patients outside of the hospital building and only normal patients inside in numbers that totalled much fewer than the day before. When asked where the other patients went, hospital staff and patients said they were “sent away” by the local authorities.
Local residents said that earthquake victims were moved away from the hospital after journalists visited and sent out reports, photos and video footage of the earthquake damage and casualties.
Local sources said at least 200 people in the hardest-hit villages in Shan State, including the town of Tarlay, lost their life. About 30 people died in Mong Linn alone, said local residents, and drinking water, medicine, clothes and blankets were urgently needed. Local authorities in Tachilek are accepting aid and supplies donated by individualsi, but won't allow foreigners to visit hard-hit areas such as Tarlay and Mong Linn. Reporters spoke with many people in Tarlay and Mong Linn who remained in fear, were still sleeping on the ground in temporary shelters despite rainfall and thus far were unwilling to rebuild their houses. “We could not sleep well inside the building because we have to flee every time when we feel the ground shake,” said a health official in Mong Linn. Some residents said they intended to relocate as a result of the earthquake.
Meanwhile, hundreds of earthquake victims living in isolated Shan State villages such as Chakuni that are within areas controlled by ethnic armed groups have not yet received much needed drinking water, food, clothing, medicine or aid from government and nongovernmental organizations. Some Tarlay residents speculated that because Chakuni village is close to ethnic armed groups, the government is afraid of traveling to the village and areas nearby to provide aid and supplies to the earthquake victims. Chakuni residents said that all houses in the village were damaged and 22 people died while praying in a village church, while everyone else inside the church was seriously injured.


NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA have started talks about a potential volcanic threat from the peninsula's highest mountain, in a rare moment of co-operation after months of confrontation. The meeting at the South Korean border town of Munsan came amid heightened concern over natural disasters after the killer earthquake and ensuing tsunami devastated north-eastern Japan. Following the Japanese disaster, Pyongyang's earthquake bureau had proposed joint research into possible activity at Mount Paekdu on the border between North Korea and China - a peak considered sacred by both sides. Since its last eruption in 1903, the mountain has been inactive. But experts say it may have an active core, citing topographical signs and satellite images. In the event of an eruption, a huge lake could overflow and deluge surrounding areas.

INDONESIA - Merapi’s Massive Mud Flows Destroy More Homes as Heavy Rains Continue. Vast torrents of volcanic mud washing down the slopes of Mount Merapi have destroyed or damaged more than 600 homes over the past few days. 106 homes have been destroyed by the mud flow, or lahar. Another 323 have suffered heavy damage, 105 moderate damage and 91 light damage. Another 11 houses are at risk. Salam, where 413 of the 625 damaged homes are located, has been the worst-effected subdistrict. The lahar has also destroyed 11 bridges, damaged four others and cut off three roads. It has left more than 3,400 people living in temporary shelters, five months after Merapi began its biggest eruption in a century. The lahar was being fed by vast quantities of volcanic ash washed by heavy rain into the Putih and Pabelan rivers, which dumped it downstream on the affected communities.
Authorities had been trying to ease the problem by dredging the rivers using heavy equipment, and by building levees to stop the rivers bursting their banks. However, many of the levees have proven too weak in the face of the lahar. The authorities had been using the mud dredged from the rivers to build up the levees. “What they should do is cart that mud away so that there’s no possibility of it washing back into the rivers when it rains." New houses for people left homeless by Merapi’s devastating October eruptions had been completed this month. “At the moment, the new houses are being prioritized for the survivors of the eruptions. Victims of the lahar will get new shelters in the second phase of building [to begin in April].”
The lahar that hit Sleman this week flowed down the Opak and Gendol rivers, destroying homes in at least two villages. The torrents of mud will continue to pose a serious threat for at least the next four YEARS. Last year’s eruptions deposited an estimated 150 million cubic meters of ash and rock across Merapi’s slopes. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of that remains on the mountain.
The administration had been forced to extend the emergency period announced after the eruptions from the end of March to the end of April to deal with the lahar. They blamed the unseasonably heavy rains that are washing the volcanic ash into the Code River. The lahar there has damaged or destroyed around 1,000 homes this month alone. The local office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency has predicted the rainy season will end in April.

INDONESIA - Alert Level Lowered for Karangetang As Lava Flows Begin to Slow Down. The government has lowered the alert level for North Sulawesi's Mount Karangetang following a decrease in lava and pyroclastic flows produced by the erupting volcano.

Deep-sea volcanoes don't just produce lava flows, they also explode! - Geology researchers' discovery of high concentrations of CO2 at mid-ocean ridges confirms explosive nature of certain volcanic eruptions Between 75 and 80 per cent of all volcanic activity on Earth takes place at deep-sea, mid-ocean ridges. Most of these volcanoes produce effusive lava flows rather than explosive eruptions, both because the levels of magmatic gas (which fuel the explosions and are made up of a variety of components, including, most importantly CO2) tend to be low, and because the volcanoes are under a lot of pressure from the surrounding water.
Over about the last 10 years however, geologists have nevertheless speculated, based on the presence of volcanic ash in certain sites, that explosive eruptions can also occur in deep-sea volcanoes. But no one has been able to prove it until now. A researcher has now discovered very high concentrations of CO2 in droplets of magma trapped within crystals recovered from volcanic ash deposits on Axial Volcano on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, off the coast of Oregon. These entrapped droplets represent the state of the magma prior to eruption. As a result, they have been able to prove that explosive eruptions can indeed occur in deep-sea volcanoes. Their work also shows that the release of CO2 from the deeper mantle to the Earth's atmosphere, at least in certain parts of mid-ocean ridges, is MUCH HIGHER THAN HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN IMAGINED. Given that mid-ocean ridges constitute the largest volcanic system on Earth, this discovery has important implications for the global carbon cycle which have yet to be explored.


Tropical cyclone weakening but may still bring bad weather. Tropical cycloneBune which lashed a small community of scientists on Raoul Island last night is set to bring strong winds and rain to New Zealand.

AUSTRALIA - A tropcial low hovering off the Northern Territory coast north of Darwin could develop into a cyclone as early as tomorrow. The weather bureau last night said there was up to a 50 per cent chance the low would develop into a cyclone.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Japan activist warns another 'nuclear quake' looms - The nuclear safety crisis entering its third week in Japan was not exactly the disaster that long-term activist and author Takashi Hirose foresaw in his book last summer, "Nuclear Reactor Time Bomb". But except for the location - he had predicted an imminent megaquake and nuclear accident at the Hamaoka plant 200 km southwest of Tokyo - the scenario depicted in his book has proved eerily prescient.
As Hirose watches what he believes is a bungled response by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company , his fears are as strong as ever that A REPEAT IS SET TO HIT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE JAPANESE CAPITAL. "I think it will definitely occur soon." Research on earthquake cycles suggests that a massive quake may be imminent in the Tokai region near the Hamaoka nuclear plant. "I've looked at the entire country, and THERE'S NOT A SINGLE REACTOR THAT'S SAFE."
Japan, at the crossroads of four tectonic plates, is the site of one-fifth of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or more. The possibility of an imminent magnitude 8-plus earthquake in the Tokai region near the Hamaoka plant was brought to the public's attention by a geologist in the 1970s and a government report has estimated there is an 87 percent chance of such an earthquake within the next 30 years. "The Pacific plate is moving, and we shouldn't be expecting that the other plates are just sitting quietly."
Japan nuclear crisis: Radiation spike report 'mistaken' - The operators of a stricken Japanese nuclear plant have apologised for a "mistake" in reporting a radiation spike 10 million times above normal. Tokyo Electric Power Company said it got the readings wrong. Because the level was so high the worker taking the reading had to evacuate before confirming it with a second reading. Despite the mistake, the radiation spike at reactor 2 was still very high and enough to evacuate workers. "The number is not credible. We are very sorry." The level of radiation in puddles near reactor 2 was confirmed at 1,000 millisieverts an hour. "It is an extremely high figure." [ 100,000 times the radioactivity of normal background levels - THE HIGHEST RADIATION READINGS YET.] The radiation levels are so high, that emergency workers near the contaminated water would have received four times their maximum annual dose of radiation in just one hour. A dose of 4,000 to 5,000 millisieverts absorbed fairly rapidly will eventually kill about half of those exposed.
The erroneous report has created more confusion around a crisis that is already causing widespread unease in the country. On Sunday, anti-nuclear protesters held a large rally in Tokyo, calling for change in Japan's nuclear industry. Meanwhile, efforts are continuing to locate the exact source of the radioactive water leak, amid concerns that the water is leaking directly from the reactor itself. The government in Tokyo has said that airborne radiation around the plant is decreasing, so there is no need to extend the evacuation zone. (map)
Officials acknowledged there was radioactive water in all four of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex's most troubled reactors, and airborne radiation in Unit 2 measured 1000 millisieverts per hour - four times the limit deemed safe by the government. Officials say they still did not know where the radioactive water was coming from, although a government spokesman has said some was "almost certainly" seeping from a cracked reactor core in one of the units. "We have somewhat prevented the situation from turning worse. But the prospects are not improving in a straight line and we've expected twists and turns. The contaminated water is one of them and we'll continue to repair the damage." The discovery over the last three days of radioactive water has been a major setback in the mission to get the plant's crucial cooling systems operating more than two weeks after the massive earthquake and tsunami. Each unit could have hundreds of tonnes of radioactive water.
Unlike in newer reactor designs, the older boiling-water reactors at Daiichi are pierced by dozens of holes in the bottoms of their reactor vessels. Each hole allows one control rod — made of a neutron-absorbing material that quickly stops nuclear fission inside the reactor — to slide into the reactor from below, as happened when the earthquake shook the plant March 11. During normal operations, a graphite stopper covers each hole, sealing in highly radioactive primary cooling water. But at temperatures above 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the graphite stoppers begin to melt.
“Since it is likely that rubble from the broken fuel rods is collecting at the bottom of the reactor, the seals are being damaged by high temperature or high radiation." As the graphite seals fail, water in the reactor will leak into a network of pipes in the containment buildings surrounding each reactor — the very buildings that have been heavily damaged by explosions. This piping is probably compromised, leaving highly radioactive water to seep from the reactor vessels into broken pipes — and from there into the turbine buildings and beyond. To stabilize the facility, workers are trying to repair the elaborate cooling system, necessary to keep the reactor cores and spent fuel pools from overheating. For now, they are conducting this work in dark, steamy conditions. Nuclear safety experts say they must shift out of the most dangerous areas every 30 minutes to an hour, to prevent radiation overexposure.
One subcontracted worker who laid cables for new electrical lines March 19 described chaotic conditions and lax supervision that made him nervous. Neither he nor any of the workers around him was given a dosimeter, a device used to measure one’s exposure to radiation. He was surprised that workers were not given special shoes; rather, they were told to put plastic bags over their street shoes. [Saw in a photo that some are wearing flip-flops! With plastic bags over them and no socks.] When he was trying on the gas mask for the first time, he said, the supervisor told him and other subcontractors, “Listen carefully, I’m only going to say this one time,” while explaining how to use it.
A sample of Massachusetts rainwater has registered very low concentrations of radiation, most likely from the Japanese nuclear power plant. The radioactive isotope iodine-131 found in the sample - one of more than 100 that have been taken around the country - has a short life of only eight days. The drinking water supply in the state was unaffected and officials do not expect any health concerns. Nevada, California, Hawaii, Colorado and Washington state have also reported tiny amounts of radiation from the Japan accident. Officials have said those levels presented no health risks. Scientists say they weren't surprised that radioactive isotopes from Japan were detected in the Western states. "They get caught up in the right wind pattern and they'll move across the ocean."

Current Status of Each of the Nuclear Reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant. (photos & timeline.)

**To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/27/11 -


Major Temblors Can Set Off Small Eruptions but Not Big Ones, Researchers Say - Seismologists have revived a longstanding question in the wake of recent earthquakes: Can a giant temblor in one location trigger another large one thousands of miles away? A new study provides the first compelling evidence that such big, distant events - which may appear to be linked when they occur within months of each other - are likely not connected at all. "A big quake rings the earth like a bell and can trigger little quakes" halfway across the planel. But apparently it doesn't trigger other big quakes over such great distances.
Geophysicists have long known that major quakes unleash bursts of energy that travel around the globe in uncertain ways. But now some scientists speculate that only sustained pressure can significantly move fault lines and thus trigger other large temblors. In addition, energy dissipates as it travels, so quakes pack a much weaker punch by the time their shockwaves reach a fault line far away. The issue has become more pressing in the aftermath of several large, destructive earthquakes that have taken a deadly toll in the past 15 months, striking China, Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and now Japan. On Thursday a 6.8-magnitude toll struck Myanmar, killing at least 70 people. But long-term data reveal no large increase in global seismic activity, even for big quakes. Since consistent record-keeping began in 1964, the number of big temblors seen globally has stayed fairly constant: An average of 17 quakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher has been recorded each year.
In 1992, a 7.3-magnitude temblor in Landers, California, "lit up the whole western U.S. with quakes over the next few hours and days." The event altered the eruption cycle of geysers at Yellowstone National Park, some 680 miles away. Similarly, a big Alaska temblor in 2002 led to a swarm of smaller quakes in Yellowstone, knocked houseboats off their moorings in Seattle and even sloshed the water of a lake in Louisiana. The 8.8-magnitude event that rocked Chile in 2010 also led to an increase in micro-earthquakes in central California, a few hours after the main shock. The huge 2004 temblor in Indonesia led to more frequent "repeating earthquakes" in a section of the San Andreas fault in California, and may even have weakened that fault. But due to the type of sustained energy needed to trigger a large quake, residents of California don't face a higher seismic risk because of the Indonesia, Chile or Japan quakes, researchers said. A team studied a 30-year seismographic record of all possible quakes larger than magnitude 5 that might have been triggered by every quake of magnitude 7 or larger. Their conclusion: "There is not evidence for very large earthquakes promoting other very large earthquakes at a global scale," although big aftershocks can occur around the original rupture.

BURMA / MYANMAR - Earthquake toll rises. At least 75 people are nnow eported to have been killed and many more injured after the powerful 6.8 earthquake struck north-eastern Burma on Thursday. The quake struck near the Lao and Thai borders, and was felt as far away as the Thai capital Bangkok, and in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. The town of Tachileik and surrounding villages in Shan state appear to have borne the brunt of the earthquake. There are fears the casualties could be much higher.
Burma is ill prepared to deal with natural disasters. Communication systems and infrastructure are poor and the military government, still in charge until the handover to a new civilian-led administration, tends to limit the flow of information. It is likely to take some time before a clear picture of the disaster emerges.
Several hundred buildings collapsed north of the town of Tachileik, in mountains near the border with Thailand. Roads and bridges have been damaged making affected areas hard to reach. "We are trying to reach the remote areas. The military, police and local authorities are trying to find some people injured in those affected areas but the roads are still closed." One woman was killed in the border town of Mae Sai in Thailand and slight damage has been reported to some buildings but major towns and cities appear to have escaped relatively unscathed.
In neighbouring Laos, no casualties have been reported. Earlier reports suggested there had been two strong earthquakes moments apart in the same area, but the USGS later clarified that there had been just one quake. On 11 March, a 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck just north of the area, 225km (140 miles) southwest of Dali in Yunnan, southern China. That was the same day as the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami hit Japan; however, Japan is on a different tectonic plate. (map)


HAWAII - Lava returns to Pu'u 'O'o crater. Lava is once again visible in the Pu'u 'O'o crater. Scientists said the lava's return follows a 17-day pause in the eruption's activity on Kilauea Volcano's east rift zone.
Lava was spotted shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday. HVO Webcam images showed lava slowly filling the deepest parts of the crater. An abrupt deflation occurred about the same time that lava appeared in the crater, but the deflation then switched to inflation by 11 a.m. The eruption of lava was accompanied by a brief seismic tremor burst. "Lava is currently confined to the Pu'u 'O'o crater and, so far, poses no threat to structures within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park or outside Park boundaries." The crater floor collapsed March 5. A few hours later, a fissure opened southwest of Pu'u 'O'o and began erupting fountains of lava. The lava erupted from what became known as the Kamoamoa fissure until March 9, when all activity on the east rift zone paused until Saturday.


Japanese Rules for Nuclear Plants Relied on Old Science - In the country that gave the world the word tsunami, the Japanese nuclear establishment largely disregarded the potentially destructive force of the walls of water. The word did not even appear in government guidelines until 2006, decades after plants — including the Fukushima Daiichi facility that firefighters are still struggling to get under control — began dotting the Japanese coastline.
The lack of attention may help explain how, on an island nation surrounded by clashing tectonic plates that commonly produce tsunamis, the protections were so tragically minuscule compared with the nearly 46-foot tsunami that overwhelmed the Fukushima plant on March 11. Offshore breakwaters, designed to guard against typhoons but not tsunamis, succumbed quickly as a first line of defense. The wave grew three times as tall as the bluff on which the plant had been built.
Japanese government and utility officials have repeatedly said that engineers could never have anticipated the magnitude 9.0 earthquake — by far the largest in Japanese history — that caused the sea bottom to shudder and generated the huge tsunami. Even so, seismologists and tsunami experts say that according to readily available data, an earthquake with a magnitude as low as 7.5 - almost garden variety around the Pacific Rim - could have created a tsunami large enough to top the bluff at Fukushima.
After an advisory group issued nonbinding recommendations in 2002, Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant owner and Japan’s biggest utility, raised its maximum projected tsunami at Fukushima Daiichi to between 17.7 and 18.7 feet — considerably higher than the 13-foot-high bluff. Yet the company appeared to respond only by raising the level of an electric pump near the coast by 8 inches, presumably to protect it from high water. “We can only work on precedent, and there was no precedent. When I headed the plant, the thought of a tsunami never crossed my mind.”
The intensity with which the earthquake shook the ground at Fukushima also exceeded the criteria used in the plant’s design, though by a less significant factor than the tsunami. Based on what is known now, the tsunami set off the nuclear crisis by flooding the backup generators needed to power the reactor cooling system.
For some experts, the underestimate of the tsunami threat at Fukushima is frustratingly reminiscent of the earthquake — this time with no tsunami — in July 2007 that struck Kashiwazaki, a Tokyo Electric nuclear plant on Japan’s western coast. The ground at Kashiwazaki shook as much as two and a half times the maximum intensity envisioned in the plant’s design, prompting upgrades at the plant. “They had years to prepare at that point, after Kashiwazaki, and I am seeing the same thing at Fukushima." When Fukushima was designed, seismology and its intersection with the structural engineering of nuclear power plants was in its infancy. Engineers employed a lot of guesswork, adopting a standard that structures inside nuclear plants should have three times the quake resistance of general buildings. “There was no basis in deciding on three times." Seawalls were erected higher than the highest tsunamis on record. At Fukushima Daiichi, officials at Tokyo Electric used a contemporary tsunami — a 10.5-foot-high wave caused by a 9.5-magnitude earthquake in Chile in 1960 — as a reference point. The 13-foot-high cliff on which the plant was built would serve as a natural seawall. Eighteen-foot-high offshore breakwaters were built as part of the company’s anti-tsunami strategy. But regulators said the breakwaters — mainly intended to shelter boats — offered some resistance against typhoons, but not tsunamis.
Over the decades, preparedness against tsunamis never became a priority for Japan’s power companies or nuclear regulators. Even though tsunami simulations offered new ways to assess the risks of tsunamis, plant operators made few changes at their aging facilities, and nuclear regulators did not press them. Although the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission has come under severe criticism for not taking the adoption of new techniques far enough, the agency did use many of them in new, plant-by-plant reviews. For whatever reasons — whether cultural, historical or simply financial — Japanese engineers working on nuclear plants continued to predict what they believed were maximum earthquakes based on records. Those methods, however, did not take into account serious uncertainties like faults that had not been discovered or earthquakes that were gigantic but rare.
The science of tsunamis advanced through the years, with far better measurements of their size, vastly expanded statistics as more occurred, and computer calculations that help predict what kinds of tsunamis are produced by earthquakes of various sizes. Earthquakes of a magnitude down to about 7.5 can create tsunamis large enough to go over the 13-foot bluff protecting the Fukushima plant. Japan’s underestimation of the tsunami risk was called a “cascade of stupid errors that led to the disaster” and that relevant data was virtually impossible to overlook by anyone in the field.
Perhaps the saddest observation by scientists outside Japan is that, even through the narrow lens of recorded tsunamis, the potential for easily overtopping the anti-tsunami safeguards at Fukushima should have been recognized. In 1993 a magnitude 7.8 quake produced tsunamis with heights greater than 30 feet off Japan’s western coast, spreading wide devastation. Two decades after Fukushima Daiichi came online, researchers poring through old records estimated that a quake known as Jogan had actually produced a tsunami that reached nearly one mile inland in an area just north of the plant. That tsunami struck in 869.


Tropical Cyclone Bune is making its way down to New Zealand and is expected to pass to the east of the country from Wednesday. The eye of the storm is expected to pass directly over Raoul Island in the Kermadec group tonight.


THAILAND - Serious floods in the south of Thailand have killed three people and affected tens of thousands more, causing about $9.2 million of damage.
Emergency disaster zones have been declared in 34 districts across five provinces since heavy downpours began on Wednesday. "Since rains began on March 23, there have been floods, strong winds and landslide in several areas," said the governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat province, which has been hardest hit. "There are about 30,000 families or 80,000 people affected by these floods." Devastating flooding across Thailand late last year left more than 220 people dead, damaging the homes or livelihoods of an estimated 8.6 million people in 51 of the kingdom's 76 provinces.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nuclear workers in Japan evacuated as radiation soars - EXTREMELY high levels of radiation have been detected in water leaking from reactor two of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, forcing the evacuation of workers. The level of radiation found in the leaked water was 10 MILLION TIMES HIGHER THAN IT SHOULD BE for water inside the reactor, indicating damage to the fuel rods. "We detected 1000 millisieverts per hour of radiation in a puddle of water at the reactor number two. This figure is 10 million times higher than water usually kept in a reactor. We are examining the cause of this, but no work is being done there because of the high level of radiation. High levels of caesium and other substances are being detected, which usually should not be found in reactor water. There is a high possibility that fuel rods are being damaged."
The head of the world's nuclear watchdog agency has warned that Japan is "still far from the end of the accident" that struck its Fukushima nuclear complex.
Japanese authorities are still unsure about whether the reactor cores and spent fuel are covered with the water needed to cool them. The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that he saw a few "positive signs" with the restoration of some external electric power to the plant. But he added that "more efforts should be done to put an end to the accident".
The nuclear emergency COULD GO ON FOR WEEKS, IF NOT MONTHS, given the enormous damage to the plant, he warned. He said his biggest concern was the spent fuel rods sitting in open cooling pools atop the reactor buildings. He said he was still uncertain that the efforts to spray seawater into the pools to keep the rods from bursting into flames had been successful.
Two weeks after the 9.0-magnitude March 11 quake and subsequent tsunami seriously damaged the ageing nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, rescue work is still under way to avoid a major nuclear disaster. Radiation levels have surged in the seawater in the area and there are concerns that fuel rod vessels or their valves and pipes are leaking. More than 27,000 people are dead or missing after the quake and tsunami.
Levels of radioactive iodine in the sea near the plant have risen to 1,850 times the usual level. The radiation found in the sea will no longer be a risk after eight days because of iodine's half-life, officials say.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government said that airbone radiation around the plant was decreasing. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency has now sent extra teams to the Japanese nuclear plant. Tepco has been criticised for a lack of transparency and failing to provide information more promptly. The nation's nuclear agency said the operator of the Fukushima plant had made a number of mistakes, including worker clothing. This week three workers were exposed to radiation levels 10,000 times higher than normal, suffering burns. Two injured workers were wearing boots that only came up to their ankles and afforded little protection. "Regardless of whether there was an awareness of high radioactivity in the stagnant water, there were problems in the way work was conducted." Tepco also knew of high air radiation at one reactor several days before the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Emergency workers are continuing to cool the reactors in an effort to prevent a meltdown. They have now switched to using more favoured fresh water as a coolant, rather than sea water. There had been fears the salt in sea water could further corrode machinery. The fresh water is being pumped in so that contaminated radioactive water can be extracted. The US 7th Fleet is sending barges loaded with 500,000 gallons of fresh water. The team of more than 700 engineers has found radioactive water in three of the six reactors. Four of the reactors are still considered volatile. "We seem to be keeping the situation from turning worse. But WE STILL CANNOT BE OPTIMISTIC."
Japan radiation killing sea life - While the U.S. Department of Energy said in public statements that there are “no significant quantities of radiological material” deposited on West coast beaches, there’s growing fears in West Coast fishing communities that Japan’s radiation will spread from its coast to here. Locals have been treated to a clear blue horizon after evenings of disturbing flaming-orange and red sunsets that locals say are “not so much beautiful,” but “sort of scary because of what’s happening with the radiation in Japan.”
The Japanese public television featured new reports Saturday morning that Tokyo’s 13 million residents are under recent measurements of “ambient radiation of 0.22 microsieverts per hours. The Japanese Health Ministry stated that this is “six times normal for Tokyo.” The World Nuclear Association said it cannot predict where the radiation from Japan will eventually wind up because precise radiation detection both in and over the Pacific is “not possible at this time” due to wind and ocean currents that can change.
Japanese media is reporting that the latest radiation scare in its waters have “destroyed aqua farms for abalone, sea urchins, oysters, scallops and seaweed. In turn, officials say this loss accounts for “more than 80 percent of the revenue of the region's fisheries.” New radiation tests on Saturday showed “iodine 131 levels in seawater 30 km (19 miles) from the coastal nuclear complex had spiked 1,250 times higher than normal, but it was not considered a threat to marine life or food safety." News that Japan’s radiation crisis has now spread to the Pacific has heighten international concern over Japanese seafood exports, and fish exporters elsewhere are equally worried that the fear of radiation spreading worldwide may tarnish the reputation of the local fish that buyers may view as tainted by radioactive particles.
Oregon authorities have issued new strong warning to keep humans and pets away from all dead sea life found on any Oregon coast beach, “as they could become infected by a disease that’s hitting the population in this area.” While radiation levels are viewed as safe right now along Oregon and other West coast beaches, there have been new warnings about a disease called “leptospirosis” that more recently infected California sea lions by the hundreds. Officials said the disease can spread to humans and dogs who come in contact with an infected sea lion or other dead sea life after the recent quake in Japan triggered massive amounts of questionable debris along West coast beaches. Tthose who walk their dogs along coastal beaches have been warned about dogs reported to be ill with unknown causes. A schnauzer puppy named “buggers,” is now seriously ill, and several other Newport dogs who frequent the local beach are also said to be sick and acting crazy.
U.S. Environment Protection Agency says radiation monitors were offline - Although no dangerous levels of radiation have reached American shores from the troubled Japanese nuclear reactors, some lawmakers are asking if the Nation's Radiation Monitoring System can safeguard the U.S. against future disasters. Federal officials use the monitors' readings to confirm the impact of nuclear incidents. Then, they alert local governments and the public. But in California, the Environmental Protection Agency says 4 of its 11 stationary monitors were offline for repairs or maintenance last week. Reports say out of 124 monitors nationwide, about 20 monitors were out of service earlier this week.

**He who cannot lie does not know what the truth is.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/26/11 -


Tsunami threat could catch U.S. Northwest off guard - the West Coast is unprepared for an earthquake and tsunami on the scale of what happened in Japan. Scientists say it's inevitable that an offshore seismic menace called the Cascadia Subduction Zone will one day unleash a megaquake. The last time it happened was 300 years ago when a magnitude-9 shaker spawned enormous ocean waves that slammed into the West Coast and damaged Japanese fishing villages.
Mindful of the risks of waves as high as 60 feet, communities in the Pacific Northwest have worked on their defenses, installing sirens to warn of dangerous waves, posting hazard signs to mark inundation zones, designating evacuation routes and holding evacuation drills. Scientists in the Pacific Northwest hadn't understood the geology and the threat it poses until recent decades when they discovered evidence of big quakes near the coast over the last 10,000 years — about 20 that were the size of the March 11 quake in Japan.
By contrast, the Japanese have long paid close attention to quakes and tsunamis. Their written records from 1700 allowed North American scientists a few years ago to fix the timing of the last Pacific Northwest megaquake, right down to the hour it occurred. So the death and damage caused by this month's earthquake and tsunami in Japan were worrisome on the other side of the Pacific. "We're not nearly as well prepared as the Japanese, and clearly they were overwhelmed. It is a problem."
Elevated refuges are among the Japan-style responses to the tsunami threat that experts say helped to mitigate the destruction and death. And these are just pieces in a giant puzzle for the Northwest in dealing with the aftermath of a disaster that could bring Katrina-style devastation to a region of 13 million people west of the Cascade Range. In Cannon Beach, the former mayor has proposed replacing the current City Hall, seismically unsound, with a two-story building on stilts to provide refuge to as many as 1,500 people. The second floor would house city offices. Atop that would be a terrace. The idea is still conceptual, awaiting vetting by structural and geophysical engineers. That could add to the tentative $4 million price tag. There's nothing like it from Northern California to British Columbia and, so far, no money for anything like it.
There are no current plans in California to build special tsunami-resistant structures, but some communities are looking at ways to herd residents to existing buildings perched on higher ground in the event of dangerous waves. In Washington state, emergency managers are working with coastal communities to develop local plans for elevated evacuation structures that could do double duty, such as steel-reinforced earthen berms 20 feet high that could support bleachers at a stadium.
"Right now, there's no funding for anything like this, through state and federal funding." Many places on the Pacific Northwest coast don't have high ground close to the beach, such as the flats of southwest Washington's Long Beach peninsula.
The message that has to be driven home for coastal residents is there are just a few keys to surviving a tsunami, including the importance of getting to higher ground and staying there, even if your family is scattered. It's also important to find a way to hoof it to higher ground — rather than trying to drive and dealing with gridlock — while also designating someone on solid ground as the family contact point. Governments can make it easier for people to survive tsunamis by creating shelters on high ground, and making sure paths uphill are clear of the invasive blackberry brambles that plague the coast.

SNEAKER WAVES - the mighty Pacific Ocean claims, on average, about 100 people each year along West coast beaches that stretch from southern California up to the very top of Washington State. Officials say many die while “in the midst of playing on the beach or standing or hiking along coastal vantage points.”
In the coastal town of Yachats, "the danger we face is caused by rip currents that form something we call ‘sneaker waves,’ that move around the coastal cliffs and then collapse on bystanders in much the same way as what killed these teens on Saturday [February 5]." According to police officials, the two Eugene high school seniors died instantly after the 10-foot wave lifted them off the slippery rocks and took them out to sea. More than 60 deaths have occurred along this same stretch of coast over the past 10 years.
From the Oregon UFO “watchers” group that regularly patrols the rugged coastal area around Yachats to the tens of thousands of tourists who visit the region for whale watching, there’s one general rule: Be aware that these areas can be dangerous because of waves surges, slippery rocks and sharp surfaces. While it’s no surprise for locals about this rise in the number of deaths on Oregon coast beaches due to sudden wave movements by the Pacific Ocean, “it does catch our tourists unaware. You get folks coming to the beach thinking it’s laid back and easy. They let their guard down, not thinking about the ocean or being surprised by waves and rolling logs." With more people visiting who are not used to the “moods” of the Pacific, they get caught.


Heavy rain expected in North Island, New Zealand as Bune weakens - There is a severe weather warning for the central North Island. There's a overnight heavy rain warning for the Bay of Plenty and Taupo, which will continue onto Sunday. Another front is also expected to move up the South Island today, bringing heavy rain to West Coast and Alps, Southland and Otago. The heaviest falls are expected in the ranges of Westland.
Meanwhile, Cyclone Bune has weakened slightly, classing as a strong Category Two cyclone down from Category Three Saturday morning. The storm has been drifting very slowly in a south easterly direction. It is expected to track to the east of New Zealand midway through next week. There's a chance of dangerous rips and surfs along the east coast during that time. At this stage, the cyclone is not expected to hit New Zealand directly, but people at east coast beaches should expect large rips. It was too early to make predictions about its effect on New Zealand because of the high degree of uncertainty about its track.

Over 3,700 Burmese Fishermen Still Missing, Presumed Dead - Of the 7,000 fishermen that were swept into the Andaman Sea during a tropical storm on March 14-16, a total of 3,374 have now been rescued. The remaining 3,700 are still missing. Nearly two weeks since 400 fishing vessels were overturned or destroyed in 70mph winds, little hope remains of anyone else surviving. “There are currently about 400 fishing vessels at sea trying to rescue survivors of the storm.”
The tropical storm occurred off the Irrawaddy delta coast close to areas such as Bogalay and Laputta which were severely hit by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. “We already listed 7,000 people as missing at sea along with their vessels. But that figure does not include those people living in littoral areas. So the number of dead may be higher.” Naval sources have estimated that the majority of missing fishermen are from Irrawaddy Division and Mon State. On March 13 that 100 houses and 38 huts in Rangoon and 20 houses in Irrawaddy Division were destroyed by the torrential winds. Burma's Department of Meteorology and Hydrology reported on March 14 that the region would experience heavy winds and rain with some thunder and lightning, but did not predict the tropical storm.

Friday, March 25, 2011

MYANMAR/ BURMA - More than 60 people were killed and 90 injured after a strong 6.8 earthquake struck Burma near its border with Thailand, as some affected areas remained cut off. The earthquake was felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China. Dozens of people were killed in areas close to the epicentre and more than 240 buildings collapsed.
The powerful 6.8 earthquake hit Myanmar Thursday near its borders with China, Thailand and Laos. The quake hit in eastern Myanmar, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) north of Chiang Rai, Thailand. It was a relatively shallow quake, which can be very destructive. The Geological Survey initially said the quake had a depth of 142 miles (230 kilometers), but it later revised its estimate to say the quake was 6 miles (10 kilometers) deep, putting it fairly close to the surface. A second quake hit about half an hour later, with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8.
The center of the quake was 589 kilometers (365 miles) northeast of Yangon, and 772 kilometers (479 miles) north of Bangkok, Thailand. It was 104 miles (168 kilometers) south-southwest of Yunjinghong, Yunnan, China. A destructive tsunami was not expected, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. The quake "is located too far inland and too deep inside the earth to generate a tsunami in the Indian Ocean." (map)

**All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/24/11 -


Global food scare widens from Japan nuclear plant - Countries across the world have shunned Japanese food imports as radioactive steam leaked from a disaster-struck nuclear plant, straining nerves in Tokyo. The damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant from the tectonic calamity and a series of explosions has stoked global anxiety. The United States and Hong Kong have already restricted Japanese food, and France wants the European Union to do the same. Russia ordered a halt to food imports from four prefectures - Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi - near the stricken plant some 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.Moscow also quarantined a Panama-flagged cargo ship that had passed near the plant and put its 19 crew under medical supervision after detecting radiation levels three times the norm in the engine room. Australia banned produce from the area, including seaweed and seafood, milk, dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables. It said, however, that Japanese food already on store shelves was safe, as it had shipped before the quake, and that "the risk of Australian consumers being exposed to radionuclides in food imported from Japan is negligible''. Canada implemented enhanced import controls on products from the four prefectures.
Singapore suspended imports of milk products and other foodstuffs from the same four prefectures, as well as all food products from two more - Chiba and Ehime. The city-state's move came after officials found "radioactive contaminants'' in four samples of vegetables from Japan, though the authorities stressed the radiation levels in the produce were still very low. The Philippines banned Japanese chocolate imports, and Indonesia asked that Japan certify its exported processed foods as radiation-free.
In greater Tokyo, an urban sprawl of more than 30 million people, strong aftershocks served as uncomfortable reminders that JAPAN'S CAPITAL ITSELF IS BELIEVED TO BE DECADES OVERDUE FOR A MEGA-QUAKE. The anxiety was compounded by the Tokyo Government's revelation Wednesday that radioactive iodine in the drinking water was more than twice the level deemed safe for infants, although it remained within safe adult limits. The news triggered a run on bottled water in shops and the city's ubiquitous vending machines, while the Tokyo government started to give families three 550-millilitre (18.5-ounce) bottles of water per infant. A measurement yesterday was in the safe zone for infants again, officials said, but this was not enough to calm all parents of young children and many bought up what bottled water they could.
Japan's government has also halted shipments of untreated milk and vegetables from Fukushima and three adjoining prefectures, and stepped up radiation monitoring at another six, covering an area that borders Tokyo. The health ministry has detected 82,000 becquerels of radioactive caesium - 164 times the safe limit - in the green vegetable kukitachina, and elevated levels in another 10 vegetables, including cabbage and turnips. At the source of the radiation - the Fukushima plant located on the Pacific coast - white smoke was seen wafting from four of the six reactors. Fire engines again aimed high-pressure water jets at the number three reactor, a day after a plume of dark smoke there forced workers to evacuate, in a bid to avert a full meltdown that would release greater radiation. Engineers have now linked up an external electricity supply to all six reactors and are testing system components and equipment in an effort to restart the tsunami-hit cooling systems and stabilise the reactors.
Scientists at the Port and Airport Research Institute meanwhile found that the tsunami that swallowed entire towns was even bigger than first thought. In devastated Ofunato, Iwate prefecture, it topped 23 metres (76 feet).
Nuclear plant to take another month to fix. - The death toll from Japan's worst post-war disaster topped 10,000 as the operator of a radiation-belching nuclear plant warned that work to stabilise it may take another month. Two weeks after a giant 9.0-magnitude quake struck and sent a massive tsunami crashing into the Pacific coast, wiping entire towns off the map, Japan held out little hope of finding alive another 17,500 listed as missing.
The focus of Japan's fears remained the six-reactor Fukushima nuclear plant northeast of Tokyo, which was still emitting radioactive vapour that has made Tokyo drinking water unsafe for infants and sparked a global food scare. The European Union has joined the United States, Russia and several other countries in restricting food imports from Japan, which itself has ordered a stop to vegetable and dairy shipments from the region around the plant.
Higher radioactivity has also been detected in the ocean near the coastal power station, raising consumer fears about the safety of fish and seaweed, which are traditional food staples of the island nation. At Tokyo's usually frantic Tsukiji fish market, the world's biggest, demand has plummeted - partially because half-empty hotels in a nervous Tokyo have reduced orders as foreigners stay away and conferences are cancelled.
At the Fukushima power station, plant workers kept spraying seawater onto overheating reactors and fuel rod pools as a stop-gap measure to prevent a larger meltdown, while trying to rebuild the original cooling systems. The tremendous risk faced by the emergency crew was highlighted when two workers were hospitalised yesterday with radiation burns. The workers were placing cables in the basement of the number three reactor's turbine building when they stepped into a pool of water containing iodine, caesium and cobalt 10,000 TIMES THE NORMAL LEVEL. The men, aged in their 20s and 30s, were wearing radiation suits, but not full-length boots and had ignored a warning alarm from their dosimeters, "assuming a problem with the device". A total of 17 workers have been exposed to more than 100 millisieverts, the level at which the risk of developing cancer rises.
TEPCO admitted today it may take at least another month to achieve a cold shutdown of all reactors - when temperatures inside fall below boiling point and its cooling systems are back at atmospheric pressure. "We are still in the process of assessing the damage at the plant, so that we can't put a deadline on when the cooling operations will work again. It may take more than a month, who knows."
The workers' injuries were a setback after some successes. Engineers have powered up two key control rooms as they try to rebuild the complex architecture of water pipes and electric wiring, but there were concerns of damage caused by the heat, explosions and build-up of sea salt. The emergency crews were working to restore pumps that will inject fresh water into the worst-hit one and three reactors, instead of the corrosive seawater which may damage electric lines.
Along the tsunami-ravaged coast of northern Honshu island, meanwhile, some 250,000 homeless in almost 2000 shelters continued to brave privations and a winter chill, with a degree of discipline and dignity that has impressed the world. The elderly, a large demographic in fast-greying Japan, were especially hard hit. Two thirds of victims were aged over 60.
Japan nuclear reactor core maybe breached - Japanese nuclear safety officials say they suspect that the reactor core at one unit of the troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant may have been breached. That raises the possibility of more severe radioactive contamination to the environment. A spokesman for the nuclear safety agency said on Friday that "something at the reactor may have been damaged" in Unit 3 of the six-unit plant. "Our data suggest the reactor retains certain containment functions", an implication that the damage may have occurred in the reactor's core, but that it was limited. Officials say the damage could instead have happened in other equipment, including piping or the spent fuel pool.
High radiation detected on Japanese travellers in China - Two Japanese travellers have been hospitalised in China with "severe" radiation levels after they arrived on a commercial airliner from Tokyo. Radiation levels that "seriously exceeded limits" were detected on the two when they arrived in the eastern city of Wuxi on Wednesday.
Meanwhile China said an abnormal level of radiation was detected on a Japanese merchant vessel when it arrived at a port in eastern China. The ship belongs to a Japanese transport company and left Tokyo on March 17. The Chinese watchdog's statement did not give further information about the exact levels of radiation, the ship crew or cargo.


Wind, waves getting bigger over the years? - During the past quarter-century, average wind speeds have increased over the world's oceans, as have wave heights, generating rougher seas, according to an Australian-led study published online.
Since faster winds cause more evaporation, the increase could lead to more water vapor in the air, compounding any increase from global warming and providing added moisture for rainfall.
Researchers report that over a 23-year period, average wind speed over the oceans rose by 0.25 per cent per year. The proportion of increase in wave height was less than for wind speed, the researchers noted, while the increase for extreme winds was more than for average winds. The researchers said the higher winds are not necessarily the result of global warming. Evaporation rises with higher wind speeds, so the result would be more moisture in the air even without global warming. And the warming shown in many studies also would increase evaporation.
Just two years ago, a study of wind speeds over land showed a decrease, rather than the increase this team found in its measurements from satellites and buoys. "I don't think these results provide a clear contradiction to our findings of declining wind speeds over land, since measurements are made in different environments." The day-to-night changes in temperature are different over land than over water and the boundary layer, the portion of the atmosphere that most closely interacts with the surface, generally is thicker over land than water.


Cyclone Bune Intensifying - As predicted by yesterday, the Fiji Meteorological Service has today revised their predictions for Cyclone Bune saying the storm will reach category 3 status tonight - that means winds will be sustained at hurricane force, or 120km/h with gusts to 150km/h.
The central air pressure is now 976hPa down from 990hPa this time yesterday. made the early call yesterday on the category status based on reliable computer models, favourable sea surface temperatures and the right atmospheric conditions.
Bune - which is pronounced "mm-boo-nay" - is currently drifting very slowly, at walking speed, in a south easterly direction. It's likely to become a strong category 3 cyclone over the weekend with the possibility it may even briefly touch category 4 status for a time out over the open waters and well away from land. By the time Bune reaches nearer to New Zealand midway through next week it is likely to have lost its technical tropical cyclone status and category levels. That, however, doesn't mean the storm will be any less ferocious. Severe gales will create huge seas off East Cape by mid next week and that will create dangerous rips and surf right along the eastern coastline of the North Island, in particular around East Cape, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.
The path of Bune takes it in a rough S shape tracking south east this afternoon, southerly tonight then south westerly overnight. By the end of Sunday the Fiji Meteorological Service says Bune will track back southerly again then south easterly. It should be tracking in a south east direction when it passes 300 to 600kms east of East Cape next Wednesday.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre expects Bune to become a strong category 3 storm by the weekend with winds averaging almost 160km/h and gusting close to 200km/h out at sea. It is highly unlikely that Bune will make a direct hit on New Zealand but it may bring severe weather to East Cape and Gisborne around Wednesday next week in the form of gales and heavy rain. Rough beach conditions next week remain the biggest risk to New Zealanders.


INDONESIA - West Jakarta agency prepares for coming extreme weather. The West Jakarta Park Agency is taking note of trees that are susceptible to blowing over in high winds, following a report that Jakarta could face extreme weather over the next few weeks. There were several areas in Jakarta that had trees that were in danger of falling. "Three streets have large trees and some that are older than five years on their sidewalks." The agency had also prepared teams to monitor the condition of thousands of trees on West Jakarta's streets. At least nine trees were uprooted by strong winds and heavy rains in West Jakarta between January and mid March this year. Last year, 32 trees fell during extreme weather.


Weather pattern drops 4 major storms on Wisconsin.area - A REPEATING weather cycle set up last fall and has continued ever since. Each cycle lasts 45-50 days and has been separated by a major storm. The first storm hit on October 26th and 27th packing wind gusts more than 50 mph. The peak gust in Green Bay hit 52 mph with a gust of 72 mph in Madison. The storm bottomed out at a pressure of 955 millibars in northern Minnesota. Pressure that low is equivalent to a category 3 hurricane. It was ONE OF THE STRONGEST NON-TROPICAL STORMS ON RECORD in the U.S.
Forty-five days later Blizzard Aiden hit Northeast Wisconsin on December 11th and 12th. The storm produced 11 inches of snow and white-out conditions. Green Bay’s peak wind gust reached 53 mph.
Forty-nine days passed and the next major storm hit the state. From January 31 through February 2, Winter Storm Connor dropped more than 20 inches of snow on Chicago and Racine. Green Bay was on the northern extent of the storm and only received 4.7 inches.
After another forty-seven days the most significant storm all season slammed into the area. Winter Storm Francesca hit Tuesday and Wednesday producing 17.8 inches of wet heavy snow in Green Bay. It was the third biggest storm on record.
Now the question is, will the pattern continue? Research shows this cycle can last into early summer. Their next major storm is set to hit between May 7th and 12th. This time snow shouldn’t be an issue and a significant severe weather outbreak is more likely.


COLORADO - A wind-whipped wildfire forced the evacuation of 9500 homes southeast of Denver on Thursday just as firefighters were gaining the upper hand on a separate blaze that has burned stubbornly for five days.

HAWAII - Fight continues to spare rain forest from Big Island wild fire. National Park Service firefighters have spent the week trying to preventthe wild fire ignited by Kilauea Volcano from spreading through a protectedrain forest that is inhabited by endangered Hawaiian plants and animals.