Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan 'Big One' may raise quake risk for years, but help end mystery of tectonic plates. The Japanese earthquake which sent a 7-meter (23-foot) tsunami onto land is erasing some of the mystery of the Earth’s crust even as it sparks more temblors in the Pacific for years.
Stress levels changed on the undersea plates extending 500 kilometers to the east and west of the epicenter, likely provoking aftershocks “for a long time.' Japan’s largest quake on record, which MAY HAVE KNOCKED THE PLANET 3.9 INCHES OFF ITS AXIS as one plate slid beneath another, will “greatly mprove understanding of the risk of these events in other locations around the Pacific and elsewhere."
Predicting earthquakes with precision eludes scientists, who until recently lacked data to improve forecasts. Japan’s disaster will aid research into how the mosaic of plates around the world can shift and trigger shocks, building on measurements from Indonesia in 2004 and Chile in 2010 that gave geophysicists insight into how the biggest tremors change Earth’s geology. “Before 2004, most geophysicists taught that only limited parts of the Ring of Fire could be capable of generating really giant earthquakes. After the Sumatra event and especially after this last event maybe we should seriously consider THE POSSIBILITY THAT ANY PART OF THE RING OF FIRE COULD GENERATE A 9-PLUS EARTHQUAKE."
The Sumatran quake in 2004, which generated an Indian Ocean tsunami that left about 220,000 dead or missing in 12 countries, sent aftershocks that continued for years and killed hundreds more. In Japan’s case, the 8.9- magnitude event was generated from the thrusting of the Pacific and North American plates on or near the zone where they meet. Hundreds of aftershocks have occurred already in Japan. Other large quakes may still threaten Japan. The subduction zone, an area where one tectonic plate is forced under another, to the east of Japan still haven’t become active. “Whether this is imminent to happen or will take another 10 years remains to be experienced.”

Radioactive Releases in Japan Could Last Months, Experts Say - As the scale of Japan’s nuclear crisis begins to come to light, experts in Japan and the United States say the country is now facing a cascade of accumulating problems that suggest that radioactive releases of steam from the crippled plants could go on for weeks or even months.
So far, Japanese officials have said the melting of the nuclear cores in the two plants is assumed to be “partial,” and the amount of radioactivity measured outside the plants, though twice the level Japan considers safe, has been relatively modest. But Pentagon officials reported Sunday that helicopters flying 60 miles from the plant picked up small amounts of radioactive particulates — still being analyzed, but presumed to include cesium-137 and iodine-121 — suggesting WIDENING ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION. In a country where memories of a nuclear horror of a different sort in the last days of World War II weigh heavily on the national psyche and national politics, the impact of continued venting of long-lasting radioactivity from the plants is hard to overstate.
Japanese reactor operators now have little choice but to periodically release radioactive steam as part of an emergency cooling process for the fuel of the stricken reactors that may continue for a year or more even after fission has stopped. The plant’s operator must constantly try to flood the reactors with seawater, then release the resulting radioactive steam into the atmosphere. That suggests that the tens of thousands of people who have been evacuated may not be able to return to their homes for a considerable period, and that shifts in the wind could blow radioactive materials toward Japanese cities rather than out to sea.
Re-establishing normal cooling of the reactors would require restoring electric power — which was cut in the earthquake and tsunami — and now may require plant technicians working in areas that have become highly contaminated with radioactivity. More steam releases also mean that the plume headed across the Pacific could continue to grow. On Sunday evening, the White House sought to tamp down concerns, saying that modeling done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had concluded that “Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.” But all weekend, after a series of intense interchanges between Tokyo and Washington and the arrival of the first American nuclear experts in Japan, officials said they were beginning to get a clearer picture of what went wrong over the past three days. And as one senior official put it, “UNDER THE BEST SCENARIOS, THIS ISN'T GOING TO END ANYTIME SOON.”
The essential problem is the definition of “off” in a nuclear reactor. When the nuclear chain reaction is stopped and the reactor shuts down, the fuel is still producing about 6 percent as much heat as it did when it was running, caused by continuing radioactivity, the release of subatomic particles and of gamma rays. Usually when a reactor is first shut down, an electric pump pulls heated water from the vessel to a heat exchanger, and cool water from a river or ocean is brought in to draw off that heat. But at the Japanese reactors, after losing electric power, that system could not be used. Instead the operators are dumping seawater into the vessel and letting it cool the fuel by boiling. But as it boils, pressure rises too high to pump in more water, so they have to vent the vessel to the atmosphere, and feed in more water, a procedure known as “feed and bleed.”
When the fuel was intact, the steam they were releasing had only modest amounts of radioactive material, in a nontroublesome form. With damaged fuel, that steam is getting dirtier.
Another potential concern is that some Japanese reactors (as well as some in France and Germany) run on a mixed fuel known as mox, or mixed oxide, that includes reclaimed plutonium. It is not clear whether the stricken reactors are among those, but if they are, the steam they release could be more toxic.
The central problem arises from a series of failures that began after the tsunami. It easily overcame the sea walls surrounding the Fukushima plant. It swamped the diesel generators, which were placed in a low-lying area, apparently because of misplaced confidence that the sea walls would protect them. At 3:41 p.m. Friday, roughly an hour after the quake and just around the time the region would have been struck by the giant waves, the generators shut down. The plant switched to an emergency cooling system that operates on batteries, but these were soon depleted.
Inside the plant, there was deep concern that spent nuclear fuel that was kept in a “cooling pond” inside one of the plants had been exposed and begun letting off potentially deadly gamma radiation. Then water levels inside the reactor cores began to fall. While estimates vary, the top four to nine feet of the nuclear fuel in the core and control rods appear to have been exposed to the air - a condition that that can quickly lead to melting, and ultimately to full meltdown.
At 8 p.m., just as Americans were waking up to news of the earthquake, the government declared an emergency, contradicting its earlier reassurances that there were no major problems. There had been no radiation leak. But one was coming: Workers inside the reactors saw that levels of coolant water were dropping. They did not know how severely. “The gauges that measure the water level don’t appear to be giving accurate readings." What the workers knew by Saturday morning was that cooling systems at a nearby power plant, Fukushima Daini, were also starting to fail, for many of the same reasons. And the pressure in the No. 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi was rising so fast that engineers knew they would have to relieve it by letting steam escape.
Shortly before 4 p.m., camera crews near the Daiichi plant captured what appears to have been an explosion at the No. 1 reactor - apparently caused by a buildup of hydrogen. It was dramatic television but not especially dangerous - except to the workers injured by the force of the blast.
The explosion was in the outer container, leaving the main reactor vessel unharmed. (The walls of the outer building blew apart, as they are designed to do, rather than allow a buildup of pressure that could damage the reactor vessel.)
But the dramatic blast was also a warning sign of what could happen inside the reactor vessel if the core was not cooled. “As a countermeasure to limit damage to the reactor core,” Tokyo Electric proposed injecting seawater mixed with boron — which can choke off a nuclear reaction — and it began to do that at 10:20 p.m. Saturday. It was a desperation move: The corrosive seawater will essentially disable the 40-year-old plant; the decision to flood the core amounted to a decision to abandon the facility. But even that operation has not been easy.
To pump in the water, the Japanese have apparently tried used firefighting equipment — hardly the usual procedure. But forcing the seawater inside the containment vessel has been difficult because the pressure in the vessel has become so great. One American official likened the process to “trying to pour water into an inflated balloon,” and said that on Sunday it was “not clear how much water they are getting in, or whether they are covering the cores.” The problem was compounded because gauges in the reactor seemed to have been damaged in the earthquake or tsunami, making it impossible to know just how much water is in the core. And workers at the pumping operation are presumed to be exposed to radiation; several workers, according to Japanese reports, have been treated for radiation poisoning. It is not clear how severe their exposure was.

**I'm not upset that you lied to me,
I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.**
Friedrich Nietzsche


LARGEST QUAKES -
This morning -
5.3 TONGA

5.4 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.2 EASTERN HONSHU, JAPAN
5.3 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
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5.4 NEAR WEST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
6.1 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.3 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
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5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.9 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN

Yesterday -
3/13/11 -
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.2 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.4 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.2 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
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5.2 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.2 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.2 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.4 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.2 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.8 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.4 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.5 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
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5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.8 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.7 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.2 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
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5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.2 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
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5.1 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.2 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.0 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
6.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.5 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
6.2 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.3 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN

LATEST NEWS -
09:38 - The BBC's risk assessment team on the ground in Japan warns that at approximately 0400 local time on Tuesday, the wind is set to change direction, blowing any hazardous material inland.
09:45 - Local media is reporting that water levels have fallen far enough to partly expose the fuel rods at Fukushima's Number 2 reactor - increasing the likelihood of overheating.
09:43 - "Some of the nuclear fuel may have partially melted down in the overheating. But crucially the primary steel nuclear containment vessels are said to be intact. The authorities report no significant radiation leak, although some Japanese people may be disinclined to trust the authorities who have lied to them about previous nuclear accidents. It looks at the moment as though catastrophe may well be avoided, but the crisis is far from over."
06:50 - Japan's government is insisting that radiation levels across the country are safe, says the BBC in Tokyo, but a German businessman says that some foreign firms are starting to move their expatriate staff south - or out of the country altogether - because they don't have confidence in what the government is saying any more.
06:36 - Cooling functions have stopped and water levels are falling in Reactor 2 at the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant. This morning, there was a huge explosion at Reactor 3, and there was a blast at Reactor 1 on Saturday. But both of those reactors are said to be intact..
06:17 - "The areas which are still under water are very difficult to reach. There are areas which are still cut off, so there are big logistical difficulties. There will be ongoing needs for food and water and sanitation facilities over the next few days and obviously we will have to work very hard to meet the challenge of providing that assistance to those people, very large numbers of people who are in need. It is quite an extensive area along the coast of northeastern Japan and THERE IS AN AREA IN WHICH THE TSUNAMI ALERT WAS ONLY LIFTED RELATIVELY RECENTLY so prior to that humanitarian aid workers were not able to get into that whole area. So whole new vistas of devastation and humanitarian disaster, if you like, are being uncovered in those areas."
05:42 - Resident in Kobe, tweets: "We seriously need more help. The real is MUCH WORSE THAN REPORTED.
04:41 - In the devastated port of Minamisanriku, where up to 10,000 people are unaccounted for, a strong wind has been blowing, making the effort to find survivors and retrieve bodies from the rubble hazardous.

Japam nuke plant rocked by second blast Monday, now from the number 3 reactor - A second explosion has rocked an earthquake-hit nuclear plant, as Japan struggles to avert a catastrophic reactor meltdown. A new tsunami scare triggered evacuations on the devastated northeast coast after a large wave was spotted rolling in to shore, but authorities said they had detected no sign of a tsunami or a quake that would have caused it.
Japan has been battling to control two overheating reactors at the ageing Fukushima plant after the cooling systems were knocked out by Friday's 9-magnitude quake and the resulting tsunami that swallowed up whole towns. Shortly after Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the plant was still in an "alarming" state, a blast at its number-3 reactor shook the facility and sent plumes of smoke billowing into the sky. The plant's operator TEPCO said that nine people were injured in the blast, which authorities said was probably a hydrogen explosion. The chief government spokesman said TEPCO reported that the reactor was probably undamaged and there was a low possibility of a major radiation leak at the plant, 250 kilometres northeast of Tokyo. Another explosion blew apart the building surrounding the plant's number-one reactor on Saturday but the seal around the reactor itself remained intact. It was likely a partial meltdown had occurred at the Fukushima No.1 reactor.
A meltdown occurs when a reactor core overheats and causes damage to the facility, potentially unleashing radiation into the environment. France's Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety said "VERY LARGE" AMOUNTS OF RADIOACTIVITY WERE "PRODUCED simultaneously with the explosion" at Fukushima on Saturday.
With ports, airports, highways and manufacturing plants shut down, the government has predicted "considerable impact on a wide range of our country's economic activities". Tokyo's stock market plunged more than six per cent in afternoon trade as investors absorbed the impact, including power outages and plant shutdowns, after the biggest quake in Japan's history. The yen surged to a four-month high after the central bank pumped a RECORD AMOUNT OF MONEY [$185 BILLION] into financial markets while shares in auto makers were hammered more than 10 per cent after they were forced to close factories. Rolling power outages were due to start later on Monday. Millions of people have already been without electricity since the disaster hit on Friday, forcing the shutdown of nuclear plants in the affected areas. Japan relies on nuclear energy for about a third of its power needs.
The United Nations said a total of 590,000 people had been evacuated in the quake and tsunami disaster, including 210,000 living near the two Fukushima nuclear plants. The colossal 9 magnitude tremor sent waves of churning mud and debris racing over towns and farmland in Japan's northeast, destroying everything in its path and reducing swathes of countryside to a swampy wasteland. In the Miyagi port town of Minamisanriku alone some 10,000 people were unaccounted for - more than half the population. The national police agency said the confirmed death toll now stood at 1,597, but groups of hundreds of bodies were being found along the shattered coastline.
Many survivors were left without water, electricity, fuel or enough food, as authorities appeared overwhelmed by the monumental scale of the disaster. Japan committed 100,000 troops - about 40% of its armed forces - to help earthquake and tsunami survivors as the world rallied behind the disaster-stricken nation and a US aircraft carrier began ferrying in food. The immense force of Friday's quake has moved Honshu - the main Japanese island - by 2.4 metres.
Meltdown threat minor - The impact of any meltdown in Japanese nuclear reactors will be small compared to the devastation caused by the quake and tsunami, Australia's best-known nuclear power expert says. He says a significant build-up of radiation is unlikely. "The contribution, if any, to this (disaster) from the nuclear fleet, I expect even under worst case scenarios is going to be small,. That's not to deny that people are always concerned and justly concerned about the integrity of the nuclear reactor network. The Japanese reactors are probably as good as you can find around the world, but this magnitude 9 earthquake may well have tested the limits of their design."
Nonetheless, the nuclear situation in Japan was obviously very serious, ranking with the Three Mile Island disaster in the US in 1979 where a reactor was destroyed after the core melted. "The Japanese reactors are not quite at that point. But there are obviously serious concerns about ensuring that the core of one of these reactors where the cooling isn't working remains under control and does not melt and does not create radiation leaks." Describing this as the worst case scenario, he said the melting would effectively destroy the core of the reactor. "It could then over time just settle in and the reactor would be irreversibly damaged, or if there was an explosion - and it would be a chemical explosion, nuclear reactors can't have atomic explosions - then there would be both physical damage and the release of radiation."
The risk of an uncontrolled loss of containment of the core, releasing large amounts of radiation, was very, very small, and the radiation would probably not spread very far. Noting that people had been evacuated from a 20km exclusion zone around the reactors, he said, "I would think that the possibility that there would be significant build-up of radiation outside the zone would still remain low."
Japan radiation 'unlikely to reach US' - Radiation from nuclear plants damaged in Japan's earthquake is unlikely to reach US territory in harmful amounts, US nuclear officials say. "Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the US Territories and the US west coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity. All the available information indicates weather conditions have taken the small releases from the Fukushima reactors out to sea away from the population."
The NRC is coordinating with the US Department of Energy and other federal agencies in providing "whatever assistance the Japanese government requests" as they respond to conditions at several nuclear power plant sites following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Japanese survivors worry about dwindling supplies, food - One day after the earthquake and tsunami, entire towns in Japan areimpossible to reach. But search-and-rescue teams are fanning out in what will be a lengthy and complex endeavor.
Japan sends 50,000 rescuers to quake area as death toll mounts - Miyagi prefecture said 10000 residents, MORE THAN HALF THE POPULATION of the town of Minami-Sanriku, couldn't be located since the March 11 quake. An estimated 4000 people were stranded in evacuation centers in Sendai.
SINGAPORE today said it was testing food imported from Japan for radiation as another explosion rocked an earthquake-hit atomic plant and raised fears of a radioactive catastrophe. "Samples will be taken for testing for radiation. Fresh produce will have priority. AVA will continue to closely monitor the situation and its developments." The bulk of Japanese imports arrive by sea, but high-end Japanese restaurants in Singapore routinely use air freight to fly in produce such as raw fish - integral to sushi and sashimi - to ensure its freshness and quality. The city-state has a large concentration of restaurants serving Japanese cuisine, which is very popular among Singaporeans.
An explosion was seen on Monday at the ageing Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant 250 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, after an earlier blast on Saturday. The plant's operator TEPCO said that nine people were injured in the blast in what authorities said was probably a hydrogen explosion which apparently did not damage the reactor. Saturday's explosion released radioactive vapours into the surrounding area, but the Japanese government said radiation levels released at that time were not high enough to affect human health.
The earthquake that struck Japan to exact a massive economic toll estimated at up to $34.1 billion, a leading risk analysis firm said
Anxiety in Japan grows as death toll steadily climbs - In a nation already besieged with grief over mounting casualties, fears of possible radiation and the threat of more earthquakes, the nightmare grew for Japanese residents Monday as thousands of bodies reportedly surfaced and a government official confirmed another explosion at a nuclear reactor building.
The official death toll reached 1,647 on Monday. But the numbers did not take into account the 2,000 bodies that Japan's Kyodo News said had been found in the hard-hit Miyagi Prefecture on Japan's northeast coast. If confirmed, the discovery would be the largest yet of victims from the epic quake and devastating tsunami that hit Japan four days ago.
In Miyagi Prefecture, rescue workers sifted through mountains of debris as hope for survivors appeared to dim. The town of Minami Sanriku -- about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Pacific Ocean -- morphed into a massive pile of wood that used to house some 20,000 residents. An eerie silence prevailed as emergency rescue officials said they didn't think anyone was still alive under the rubble. About half of Minami Sanriku's population was unaccounted for.
So far, about 15,000 people have been rescued. Japanese troops went door-to-door in the city of Ishinomaki, hoping to find survivors -- but found mostly the bodies of elderly residents. In the area of Sendai, where houses and buildings disintegrated into rushing water within seconds, solemn residents waited in lines that stretched blocks for food, water and gas. Despite the devastation surrounding them, the crowds appeared calm and orderly. But more despair may be in store. There's a high chance of a magnitude-7.0 quake or above in the next three days because of increased tectonic activity, the earthquake prediction department chief for the Japan Meteorological Agency said Sunday. The U.S. Geological Survey reported scores of such aftershocks. More than two dozen were greater than magnitude 6, the size of the quake that severely damaged Christchurch, New Zealand last month. About 2.5 million households, just over 4% of the total in Japan, were without electricity Sunday.
The devastating earthquake and tsunami will rank among the costliest natural disaster on record, experts predict. Japan's central bank announced plans Monday to inject 15 trillion yen ($186 billion) into the economy to reassure global investors in the stability of Japanese financial markets and banks. Still, Japanese markets dropped sharply on Monday, the first trading day since the disaster. By mid-day local time, the benchmark Nikkei 225 was down more than 6.4%. The drop was the largest single day fall since September 2008 after the collapse of Lehman Brothers during the financial crisis.
A massive emergency response operation is underway in northern Japan, with world governments and international aid groups coming together to bring relief to the beleaguered island nation. Sixty-nine governments have offered to help with search and rescue. Friday's quake is the strongest in recorded history to hit Japan, according to USGS records that date to 1900. The world's largest recorded quake took place in Chile on May 22, 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5.
Japanese authorities have said there is a "possibility" that a meltdown has occurred in the damaged reactors, but said that there were no indications of dangerously high radiation levels in the atmosphere. Still, the government evacuated more than 200,000 residents from homes close to the plant and tested 160 people for radiation exposure on Sunday.

Latest video coverage - from the BBC.
Gallery of photos sent in to the BBC.
Before and after aerial photos - Google Earth.

VOLCANOES -

Mud volcano erupts in Azerbaijan - A mud volcano erupted in Gobustan region of Azerbaijan on March 13. Witnesses heard an explosion before the eruption, mud breccia erupted and then fire blazed up in the territory of Shikhzayirli mud volcano. The fire had an altitude above 50 m. Experts and rescuers of the Ministry of Emergency Situations immediately arrived at the site to prevent any emergency situation. The fire altitude in the Shikhzayirli mud volcano lowered currently and 1-2 m fire is seen in two centers. Its activation decreased and mud flow is seen in some bald peaks. Deep grikes were created around the crater. The mud volcano is not threatening the nearby villages.
Three running quakes have hit Shirvan city of Azerbaijan. One quake hit an area in 40 km north-east of Shirvan city at 11.52 on March 14. The magnitude of the quake in its epicenter was 3.5 on 12-magnitude scale. A 3-magnitude quake occurred in Shirvan and Hajigabul and 2-magnitude in Sabirabad. No casualties and devastation were reported. A second 3.5-magnitude quake occurred in 35 km north of Shirvan at 12.14 and aftershocks with same magnitudes in Hajigabul and Sabirabad. No casualties were reported.

TSUNAMI / FREAK WAVES / ABNORMAL TIDES -

New tsunami warning for Japan cancelled - After initial reports of a three metre tsunami off the coast, the Meteorological Agency says there is no current risk of another deadly wave hitting Japan's northeastern coast. Soldiers and officials along a stretch of Japan's northeastern coast had warned residents that the area could be hit by another tsunami, ordering them to higher ground. Farther south along the coast, helicopters flew over coastal communities warning residents to head to higher ground. In Sendai, the biggest city in the area, police announced warnings on a public address system.
Earlier, Jiji news agency reported that A LARGE WAVE WAS SPOTTED OFF THE COAST by a helicopter, but the meteorological agency says it had detected no sign of a new tsunami or a major quake that would have triggered it. Authorities had issued evacuation orders in some parts of the devastated coastline after the initial report and as SEAWATER WAS SEEN RETREATING off Iwate and Aomori prefectures - a phenomenon that occurs before tsunamis. The crew of a fire department helicopter had spotted the three-metre high tsunami off Fukushima prefecture, saying it was expected to hit shortly after 1.30pm AEDT. By 2pm AEDT no tsunami was reported to have hit.
A meteorological agency official said: "When we detect an earthquake, the agency issues either a tsunami warning or an alert, but there was no quake monitored". He added, as a note of caution, that some of the agency's offshore monitoring systems had been broken by last Friday's disaster. An offshore quake had struck 140 kilometres northeast of Tokyo earlier today, shaking tall buildings in Tokyo, but authorities did not then issue a tsunami alert. The quake off coastal Ibaraki prefecture - one of many aftershocks since Friday's massive 9 quake - had a 5.8-magnitude.

Boats aren't being allowed to travel through California's Santa Cruz Harbor as crews work on hauling up sunken boats and removing debris after Friday's tsunami. A U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman said Sunday that 18 boats sunk in the harbor, while approximately 100 were damaged.


Southern Oregon Tsunami Damage
- an ongoing collection of images documenting the effect of Japan's 8.9 earthquake generated tsunami that struck the Oregon coast. (26 total photos)

TROPICAL STORMS -
No current tropical cyclones.

SEVERE RAIN STORMS, FLOODING, LANDSLIDES -

AUSTRALIA - More homes are under threat from rising water levels in Western Australia's Kimberley region after the town of Warnum was inundated yesterday. People in Wyndham, Kununurra and Halls Creek, including outlying communities in the Ord and Fitzroy River catchments, have been told to remain vigilant after significant flooding at Warnum in East Kimberley over the weekend. Water levels are rising quickly in local rivers and streams, and creeks are also expected to be fast-flowing. Warnum was hit by flood waters when up to 400mm of rain fell, causing flooding and major structural damage. The town has is uninhabitable and remains without power. The sewerage system has also broken and the air strip is no longer accessible. Up to 300 people have been evacuated to the Warmun Roadhouse. Further rainfall with moderate to heavy falls up to 100mm and isolated heavier falls are forecast for the Ord River catchment until tomorrow morning, the bureau has warned.

U.S. Major flooding continued along the Passaic River in northern New Jersey on Sunday after the river crested at Little Falls nearly 5 feet above flood stage late on Saturday.

SPACE WEATHER -

This week marks the 22nd anniversary of the Quebec Blackout. On March 13, 1989, a geomagnetic storm brought down Hydro-Qu├ębec's power grid and blacked out the entire province. Brownouts and other power irregularities were experienced across much of North America. Today's "smart power grids" are even more vulnerable because they are interconnected by high voltage lines spanning thousands of miles. In good times, this arrangement allows ultilities to guide power wherever it might be needed. During geomagnetic storms, however, it spreads the danger of a blackout far and wide. What we need is a Solar Shield.

The geomagnetic storms of March 10th and 11th are subsiding. Earth's magnetic field began shaking on March 10th in response to a CME impact; the reverberations continued for more than 24 hours. In Sweden the auroras were so bright, they competed with campfires. Auroras could appear again, soon. A new solar wind stream was buffeting Earth's magnetic field Sunday, and NOAA forecasters estimate a 10% chance of severe geomagnetic storms.