Monday, March 21, 2011

Japan disaster raises fear of megaquake cluster - Some experts think big earthquakes can trigger other giant temblors. Most experts believe giant earthquakes happen randomly. The 9.0-magnitude temblor that devastated Japan on March 11 may be changing that assumption.
The Japan disaster followed two damaging earthquakes in New Zealand in recent months and an 8.8-magnitude quake off the coast of Chile in late February 2010. “Chile, New Zealand, and now we have seen this. The general consensus is that this is strictly a coincidence, but there are people who believe there are clusters of these events. A lot of people are investigating these clusters. They have happened in the past.”
Some seismologists argue that mega-earthquakes cluster in 50-year cycles. Under this theory, the last cycle is supposed to have happened in the 1960s, when the two largest megaquakes of the 20th century hit — a 9.5-magnitude Chilean temblor in 1960 and a 9.2-magnitude event in Alaska in 1964. USGS records indicate that seven of the 16 largest earthquakes since 1900 hit between 1950 and 1965. The recent spate of big quakes may be part of a new cluster. Five of the 16 largest temblors have happened since the end of 2004, according data which includes Friday’s quake in Japan.
Near the beginning of the 20th century, there were also a number of major earthquakes — in 1906 there were three big ones, including the temblor on the San Andreas fault that devastated San Francisco. "The overall belief is that quakes are relatively RARE on this size, and they can happen in groups purely by chance. That said, there are a lot of things we don’t understand about how they are triggered. When one of these big ones happens, the planet rings like a bell. If another is close to rupture, this may bring it closer.”
Still, other scientists question the historical data used to support the megaquake-cluster theory. Indeed, when the big quakes hit in 1906, seismic recording was in its infancy, so it’s not clear how powerful some of the events really were.

**He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/20/11 -


2158: The impact of the earthquake in figures: At least 1.04 million households were without running water; at least 1170,000 buildings were damaged with at least 14,623 completely destroyed; about 257,000 homes were without electricity and about About 362,580 people have been evacuated and are staying at shelters
2125: Foreign businesses have been moving out of Tokyo as a result of the quake, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reports. It follows an earlier report from the Japan Times that Osaka was the destination of choice for a number of businesses uncertain about the effects of radiation and affected by frequent electricity blackouts.
2105: Thirteen long hours after they began spraying water at the Fukushima nuclear reactor, fire fighters have ended their operation.
2024: The UN's nuclear chief and a team of experts have been in Japan monitoring radiation levels and the actions being taken to sort out the Fukushima reactors. "My impression is that the Japanese side is strengthening activities to overcome, to stabilise the reactors. I hope that safety, stability will be recovered as soon as possible. But I still don't think it is time to say that I think they are going in a good direction or not."
1841: The cloud plume from Fukushima has now reached the western Atlantic, but radioactivity is likely to be "extremely low" with no impact on health or the environment.
1635: The US Pacific Command ships "report sighting much less debris at sea now, unlike a week ago when large debris fields [were spotted] as far as 20 nautical miles offshore."
1632: The key development so far: Engineers are trying to reconnect some of the plant's six reactors to a power grid. They have made managed to lay down connect one cable but electricity is not yet restored and it is still unclear if their cooling systems will work once power does return.
1556: Japan's level of nuclear alert was raised on Friday, drawing parallels with the nuclear crisis at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979. But there are stark differences as one nuclear engineer says: "It's probably not politically correct to say it, but Three Mile Island was a piece of cake compared to what they're facing over there."
1121: The Oshika peninsula in Miyagi prefecture has moved 5.3m (17.4 feet) and dropped 1.2m since the devastating March 11 quake - both RECORDS FOR LAND MASS MOVEMENTS IN JAPAN.
1025: There are still no reports of damage following the 6.1-magnitude quake that hit Ibaraki prefecture. Japan has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks since 11 March, many strong, but this one may cause additional concern as its epicentre is close to the damaged nuclear plant at Fukushima.
0720: Abnormally high radiation levels have been detected in samples of milk and spinach from the region close to the nuclear plant.
0531: Last week's tsunami reached heights of around 20 metres on the Sanriku coast. The Sanriku coastline is jagged, a factor which apparently increased the height of the tsunami. Among their investigations, researchers found wreckage on top of a three-storey building near the ocean.
0349: The operator of the Fukushima power plant says engineers have bored holes in the roofs of the buildings housing reactors 5 and 6 to avoid a potential gas explosion.
JAPAN MAPS - tsunami, quake, nuclear threat, etc.
JAPAN - The deadly earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan could cost its economy up to $235 billion.
The United Nations nuclear agency says there have been positive developments in Japan's efforts to tackle a nuclear emergency after the quake. Smoke or vapour rising from one of the overheating reactors at the damaged Fukushima power plant had become less intense. But it said the overall situation remained very serious.
The official death toll has now risen to 8,450, with 12,931 people missing. Electricity has been restored to three reactors at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant - this should allow the use of on-site water pumps soon. Engineers have been spraying fuel rods with salt water to try to them the rods cool enough to avert radiation leakage. Villagers living near the plant have been told not to drink tap water due to higher levels of radioactive iodine. "We consider that now we have come to a situation where we are very close to getting the situation under control."
Reactor 1: Fuel rods damaged after explosion. Power lines attached
Reactor 2: Damage to the core, prompted by a blast, helped trigger raising of the nuclear alert level. Power lines attached
Reactor 3: Contains plutonium, core damaged by explosion. Fuel ponds refilled with water in operation
Reactor 4: Hit by explosion and fire, temperature of spent fuel pond now said to have dropped after water spraying
Reactors 5 & 6: Temperature of spent fuel pools now lowered after rising dangerously high. Diesel generators powering cooling systems.
Search-and-relief efforts in the prefecture of Miyagi, where the police chief believes the final quake-tsunami death toll could reach 15,000, have been delayed by driving rain. "We have been using helicopters to deliver relief goods to some places but for today we have to switch the delivery to places that we can reach by road." Residents are trying to get a semblance of normal life back, despite fears of contamination Heavy rain has intensified fears of radiation contamination too.
Attention has also turned to contamination of food supplies. Over the weekend spinach and milk produced near the Fukushima nuclear plant was found to contain levels of radioactive iodine far higher than the legal limits, although not at levels that would be a risk to human health. Radioactive materials three times higher than the legal safety limit were detected in the water there. There are still shortages of food, water, and medicine in some of the worst affected parts of the country. Nearly 900,000 households are still without water. More than 35,000 people are still living in evacuation centres.
"Even if certain things go smoothly, there would be twists and turns. At the moment, we are not so optimistic that there will be a breakthrough." Rescue workers have said the business of collecting bodies has become more disturbing with the passage of time. "The recent bodies - we can't show them to the families. The faces have been purple, which means they are starting to decompose.
"Some we're finding now have been in the water for a long time, they're not in good shape. Crabs and fish have eaten parts." But there was some good news after an 80-year-old woman and her grandson were found alive in the rubble of Ishinomaki city.
Quake survivors wonder why government is taking so long to send aid. - A week after the deadly magnitude-9.0 earthquake and even deadlier tsunami, the newly homeless are huddling hungry and cold in emergency shelters. And people are wondering where, exactly, their government is. Most victims have endured their privations with stoicism, but anger is rising over the lack of basic services. After a major quake in Kobe in 1995, organized-crime groups were handing out blankets and food within hours; the government dithered for days. Afterward, officials pledged to speed up decision-making and marshaling of resources to stricken areas in times of crisis. "The Japanese government should have learned from the Kobe earthquake that they would need help, but they didn't." It appeared Japan was totally unprepared for the disaster. "It's unthinkable, after several days, that there are still no supplies down here."
The official count of dead and missing in the quake and tsunami topped 18,000, making it Japan's worst disaster since World War II. Establishing a final toll will probably take weeks, but the National Police Agency said the official death count had reached 7,197, exceeding that of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, and the number of those unaccounted for stood at 10,905. Recovery crews have yet to comb through enormous piles of tsunami-deposited debris in some remote areas. Nearly 1 million homes remain without electricity in the quake zone, and rolling blackouts have been taking place elsewhere. As the threat of blackouts has intensified, one activist called on Japan to unplug millions of vending machines that dispense items such as hot corn soup and bouquets of flowers.

South Florida water table rose after quake - The South Florida Water Management District says the groundwater level rose for about 34 minutes after the quake struck on March 11. The agency's monitoring network registered a spike from Orlando to the Florida Keys. The agency was not expecting to see any effect from the earthquake because of the large distance from Japan. Changes in groundwater levels were also observed after the quakes in Haiti and Chile last year.

FLORIDA - 3/18/11 - Mysterious rumbling mimics earthquake. Whatever gave some Flagler County residents a rumble Friday morning wasn't an earthquake -- at least not one recorded on any instruments by scientists. About a dozen people reported trembling and rumblings in Flagler County, from The Hammock stretching across Palm Coast to Bunnell. . The phone started ringing about 9:40 a.m. with reports of rumbling along with vibrating windows and garage doors. It may have been a military jet breaking the sound barrier after dropping a bomb at the Pinecastle Range Complex in the Ocala National Forest. "Sometimes, they get a little overzealous on their throttle and they break the sound barrier when they are not supposed to." As for the bombing theory, the U.S. Navy denies it initiated any action Friday in the Ocala National Forest. No bombs were being dropped at the Navy's range in the forest.
Whatever it was will likely remain a mystery, a seismic enigma. It was not an earthquake said a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Information Center at the U.S. Geological Survey. "We didn't record anything. You really don't get earthquakes in that part of Florida at all. We didn't record anything at all for this."
Before a quake is written off completely, however, consider the USGS only has one seismometer in Florida, near Disney World. So another USGS geophysicist raised the possibility of a quake big enough to rouse some Flagler residents, but too small to register on the seismometer somewhere near Disney. "It's possible there was a small quake, very localized and it's possible our seismometers didn't detect it. People felt something. It might have been an earthquake. It might have been an explosion from the military."
Friday was not the first time Flagler County residents have reported some shaking. More than a year ago, some condominium residents in northeast Flagler County reported "light rumblings and some little pops," which turned out to be an offshore earthquake. If it was an earthquake, it was very rare for Florida. Usually, the seismic activity causing a quake occurs outside Florida, but its vibration is felt in the state. The only place earthquakes are usually felt in Florida is in the Panhandle near the Alabama border.. That's because the quakes happen in Alabama and are felt in Florida. There is anecdotal evidence of an earthquake in Deltona in 1973 but it was not recorded by scientific instruments. On Sept. 10, 2006, a 5.9 temblor in the Gulf of Mexico was felt 400 miles to the east in Tampa.


INDONESIA - 600 Near Sulawesi Volcano Evacuated. Indonesia said it has evacuated hundreds of people living near Mount Karangetang, off North Sulawesi, as the authorities issued a red alert yesterday following its eruption. Nearly 600 people live in three villages 4km from the volcano's western peak, from which lava continues to spew as it disgorges heat clouds. 'The process to evacuate 582 villagers has been completed. All are now at safety shelters and nobody was injured. The volcano is still in the phase of eruption. We have detected lava flow which has reached as far as 1,800m."
An eruption at Karangetang, which forms the northern part of the remote Siau Island in North Sulawesi, killed four people last August. The Indonesian archipelago has dozens of active volcanoes and straddles major tectonic fault lines known as the 'Ring of Fire' between the Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's most active volcano, Mount Merapi in central Java, caused the deaths of over 350 people in a series of violent eruptions which started late last October.
A flood of cooled volcanic lava from Indonesia's Mount Merapi has buried 21 houses in Central Java. Wet weather over the weekend turned into a "boiling flood" as the rains hit the volcano and washed down to the village of Agromulyo. They reported no fatalities, but one resident said a family of three suffered burns.

HAWAII - Fire still burning. It began on March 5th, 2011, at 2 pm, after volcanic activity along the Kamoamoa Fissure of the East Rift of Kilauea volcano. Molten rock pools and flows led to brush fires. About 1833 acres have burned so far.

The mineral quartz could help scientists predict earthquake tremors and volcanic eruptions, says a new study. Underground crystal deposits of the stone are abundant wherever fault lines occur and indicate a weakness in the earth's crust that is likely to lead to a geological event, scientists found. In a research that could lead to saving thousands of lives in future disasters, they believe the mineral accounts for the movements of continental plates. It includes the Asiatic plate moving under the North American plate that caused last week's Japan megaquake. 'Certainly, the question of why mountains occur where they do has been around since the dawn of time.'
Their findings come after they repeatedly found a link between quartz deposits and geological events that they said was 'completely eye-popping'. The information they gathered showed that quartz minerals were a good indicator of weaknesses in the earth's crust. The team linked the properties in rocks to Earth's movements. Quartz contains trapped water that is released when heated under stress, allowing rocks to slide and flow in what they termed a 'viscous cycle'.


Tsunami a real & devastating possibility on the Jersey Shore along the Atlantic Ocean. - Even a 'doomsday scenario' is a realistic possibility because of a volcano over 3500 miles away. "There's a volcano in the Canary Islands called Cumbre Vieja, and if that has a landslide, trouble will begin. If the side gives way, and it slides into the ocean, it could generate a big wave that would devastate the east coast. The volcano has been there a long time, and it hasn't happened yet, but it's a realistic possibility."
For almost a week, the world has watched in horror as Japan has dealt with the effects of both a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, and a large tsunami that struck shortly afterward. A tsunami can occur in any large body of water. Tsunamis can form almost anywhere under the right circumstances.
"Tsunamis form when something offsets the seafloor. It's like it builds a step in the ocean surface, and the whole water column is lifted up, and then it clears off. Anything from an earthquake to a meteorite could generate this big wave, and cause phenomenal damage after it comes ashore." There is no historical record of a large scale tsunami hitting the Jersey Shore, but one is still possible. Another doomsday scenario - "If a large chunk of land off Africa falls off into the Atlantic, (and it's expected to do so in the next hundred years) it would be catastrophic to the east coast."
"We're not prepared at all for a tsunami. If one hit today, it would be as devastating as the tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean in December 2004. We're not prepared, and we have a larger population. It would be absolutely catastrophic, and like nothing we've ever seen before." And, the East Coast doesn't have a complex warning system in the event of a tsunami. "Nobody was more prepared for this sort of event than Japan was, and we're watching them struggle with the after effects. We're not even close here. We don't have a strong enough system, at all."
The National Weather Service sponsors a program called TsunamiReady. To become a certified community, the city must establish a formal tsunami plan. In addition, they must hold emergency exercises like planning ways to develop and distribute warnings. Although TsunamiReady could drastically help in an emergency situation, it reports that only 83 sites in the United States were "tsunami ready" as of March 2. As for fears of an earthquake, it has been years since New Jersey has been affected by one right off their coast. A quake in 1929 hit Southern Canada. "People in Canada were killed after the resulting tsunami, and there was another way back in 1889 in Charleston, South Carolina. Residents along the coast have to purchase tsunami insurance there."
Experts say that it would be a little naive to assume that the Earth has entered an active earthquake pattern. "Just because one hit (Japan) doesn't mean that we're more likely to see future quakes. "We have seen several large quakes in recent years. But earthquakes could happen at anytime, really."

No current tropical cyclones.


INDONESIA - Storm chaos reignites calls for relocation of the capital. Extreme weather in the capital saw hail falling from the sky, trees uprooted, widespread surface flooding and damage to the exclusive Senayan City in South Jakarta.

AUSTRALIA - Sixteen children and their carers are being rescued from a pre-school threatened by rising floodwaters as heavy rains saturate the Illawarra region, shutting highways and suspending trains. Six separate rescue attempts are underway in the region, with Albion Park getting 63mm of rain in the hour to 1pm (AEDT). More than 155mm of rain fell on Albion Park this morning, prompting localised flash flooding across the area. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for flash flooding on the south coast, Riverina, Illawarra, South West Slopes, Snowy Mountains and Southern Tablelands. The wild weather has disrupted public transport, with flooding causing trains to be suspended between Dapto and Kiama on the south coast. Rain has closed the Princes Highway in both directions. The Illawarra Highway is also closed in both directions between the Princes Highway and Tongarra Rd and motorists being urged to delay their journey in this area until the rain eases and flood waters recede.