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.