Thursday, March 3, 2011

NEW ZEALAND terrified by fresh earthquake prediction. - A New Zealand mathematician who predicted the deadly Christchurch quake has terrified Kiwis with news another will strike the city in two weeks. The popular long-range weather forecaster is warning that a second jolt will hit the already-devastated South Island city on March 20. He uses the moon, sun and tidal activity for the basis of his theories, which have been dismissed by scientists. Yet on Valentine's Day, he issued a tweet stating that conditions were "potent" for a quake in Christchurch between February 15 and 25. The 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck on February 22, killing as many as 240 people. Eerily, he warned people to watch for "special signs", such as silent birds or scared pets, and said "stay away from old cracked buildings".
His new warning is clear. "If I lived in Christchurch, I'd get out for a few days over that time, go camping, visit friends, just get out and keep safe. And if you don't live there, stay away." His frightening words have panicked New Zealanders, with hundreds using Twitter and Facebook to brand his theories as "crackpot", "wacky" and scientifically baseless. Despite this, his following is substantial, with more than 5000 New Zealanders - including farmers, gardeners and even disaster specialists - signed up to receive his weather predictions. His words have sparked ferocious debate. Some believe his frightening words prey on vulnerable people struggling to recover in the wake of the disaster. And scaring them he is.

**There's no disaster that can't become a blessing,
and no blessing that can't become a disaster."
Richard Bach

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/2/11 -

NEW ZEALAND - It was a sleepless night for many in Christchurch, with seven aftershocks hitting the city since midnight. The first, at 12.11am, was a 3.3 magnitude. The strongest was an aftershock measuring 3.9 at a depth of 5km at 2.55am within 5km of Lyttelton. All but one was centred within a 20km radius of Lyttelton. "If you slow down and are not working it's very hard. But the families still waiting for news of lost loved ones, or who have had lost ones, it's harder." There have been hundreds of aftershocks recorded in the Canterbury region since the 6.3 quake on February 22. The strongest aftershock occurred immediately after the 12.51pm quake, at 1.04pm, registering 5.7 at a depth of 10km. Of the more than 200 aftershocks of a significant size recorded by Geonet, 49 have been recorded at a scale of 4.0 or higher.

Arkansas Suspends Drilling of Injection Wells after Earthquake Swarm - After months of earthquakes, including the largest felt in 35 years (a 4.7 quake on February 27), the state of Arkansas has ordered a temporary moratorium on the drilling of new injection wells related to natural gas-related drilling, which some locals believe are causing the seismic activity. More than 700 small earthquakes have been recorded in north-central Arkansas in the last six months.
Although the earthquake swarm might be a natural occurrence, it is also possible that it has been a consequence of the natural gas drilling technique known as “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking.” The process entails injecting millions of gallons of chemicals, sand or fluids into a well to crack open the rocks and allow easier access to the natural gas. The problem in Arkansas appears to be related not to the drilling itself, but to the disposal of wastewater from the drilling by forcing it back into the earth into injection wells. The order only halted work at sites that started in December of last year. Those in operation before then are still in use. The moratorium will expire in July. In the meantime, researchers will search for evidence of whether the drilling is causing the earthquakes.

No current tropical cyclones.


BOLIVIA - Thousands of residents are evacuating Irpavi II, one of the many neighbourhoods in La Paz affected by last Sunday's landslide which destroyed or damaged more than 1,500 houses. "We do not know where to go. We are just leaving this area." They carry furniture, clothes - anything they can grab in desperation - to cross a raging river which threatens to swallow the only working bridge left standing. Most people here did not have insurance on their property, and have nothing left. "This does not look like a landslide, but a massive earthquake."
About 60% of La Paz is prone to geological problems, experts say. On Tuesday, the government launched a national campaign to ask for money and donations for the victims. People are being housed in wooden shelters and tents as well as schools, and tonnes of dried food, clothes and mattresses are being provided. Since Sunday the affected area had almost doubled in size, from 80 to 140 hectares, but the worst should be over. Unless the weather deteriorates.
This is THE BIGGEST LANDSLIDE IN THE CITY OF LA PAZ SINCE RECORDS BEGAN. "All the preventive measures we had put into place in the area proved insufficient to stop a landslide of such magnitude." Thousands of people living on lower ground face the prospect of remaining without water for six months or more. "We carried out an inspection and found out that, unfortunately, the main pipe [which takes water to many parts of the southern district of La Paz] is broken. A new pipeline needs to be built." But the pipes may have to be imported from as far away as the United States, adding more time to the repair work.
Landslides are nothing new in La Paz, and every year whole chunks of mountains crumble, and sometimes bury residents alive. "The risks in La Paz are water erosion, gravitational movements [such as landslides], flooding by rivers and earthquakes. There are several places that are exposed to landslides but it is difficult to know which neighbourhoods are more at risk now, and which ones will be next." La Paz, a city of a million people, has grown rapidly, often at random, in the past few decades along the sides of its many canyons. It also sits on an estimated 400 rivers and underground streams, which swell during the rainy months of January and February. Given the known risks faced by the city, homeless residents are asking why permission was given for their houses to be built on steep slopes so vulnerable to landslides.


Can a group of scientists in California end the war on climate change? The Berkeley Earth project say they are about to reveal the definitive truth about global warming. When they go public with their findings in a few weeks, they will be muscling in on the ugliest and most hard-fought debate of modern times.
Starting from scratch, with new computer tools and more data than has ever been used, they will arrive at an independent assessment of global warming. The team will also make every piece of data it uses – 1.6bn data points – freely available on a website. It will post its workings alongside, including full information on how more than 100 years of data from thousands of instruments around the world are stitched together to give a historic record of the planet's temperature. By laying all its data and workings out in the open, where they can be checked and challenged by anyone, the Berkeley team hopes to achieve something remarkable: a broader consensus on global warming. "We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close."
There are already three heavyweight groups that could be considered the official keepers of the world's climate data. Each publishes its own figures that feed into the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City produces a rolling estimate of the world's warming. A separate assessment comes from another US agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The third group is based in the UK and led by the Met Office. They all take readings from instruments around the world to come up with a rolling record of the Earth's mean surface temperature. The numbers differ because each group uses its own dataset and does its own analysis, but they show a similar trend. Since pre-industrial times, all point to a warming of around 0.75C.
To concede that climate sceptics raise fair criticisms means acknowledging that scientists and government agencies have got things wrong, or at least could do better. But the debate around global warming is so highly charged that open discussion, which science requires, can be difficult to hold in public. At worst, criticising poor climate science can be taken as an attack on science itself, a knee-jerk reaction that has unhealthy consequences. "Scientists will jump to the defence of alarmists because they don't recognise that the alarmists are exaggerating." "I've told the team I don't know if global warming is more or less than we hear, but I do believe we can get a more precise number. Science has its weaknesses and it doesn't have a stranglehold on the truth, but it has a way of approaching technical issues that is a closer approximation of truth than any other method we have...Maybe we'll find out that what the other groups do is absolutely right, but we're doing this in a new way. If the only thing we do is allow a consensus to be reached as to what is going on with global warming, a true consensus, not one based on politics, then it will be an enormously valuable achievement."


Researchers Crack the Mystery of the Missing Sunspots - In 2008-2009, sunspots almost completely disappeared for two years. Solar activity dropped to hundred-year lows; Earth's upper atmosphere cooled and collapsed; the sun’s magnetic field weakened, allowing cosmic rays to penetrate the Solar System in record numbers. It was a big event, and solar physicists openly wondered, where have all the sunspots gone? Now they know. "Plasma currents deep inside the sun interfered with the formation of sunspots and prolonged solar minimum."
"According to our model, the trouble with sunspots actually began in back in the late 1990s during the upswing of Solar Cycle 23." The minimum of sunspot cycle 23 was the longest in the space age with the largest number of spotless days.
"Understanding and predicting solar minimum is something we’ve never been able to do before - and it turns out to be very important." While Solar Max is relatively brief, lasting a few years punctuated by episodes of violent flaring, over and done in days, Solar Minimum can grind on for many years. The famous Maunder Minimum of the 17th century lasted 70 years and coincided with the deepest part of Europe's Little Ice Age. Researchers are still struggling to understand the connection.
One thing is clear: During long minima, strange things happen. In 2008-2009, the sun’s global magnetic field weakened and the solar wind subsided. Cosmic rays normally held at bay by the sun’s windy magnetism surged into the inner solar system. During the deepest solar minimum in a century, ironically, space became a more dangerous place to travel. At the same time, the heating action of UV rays normally provided by sunspots was absent, so Earth’s upper atmosphere began to cool and collapse. Space junk stopped decaying as rapidly as usual and started accumulating in Earth orbit. And so on….
Next step: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) can measure the motions of the sun’s conveyor belt - not just on the surface but deep inside, too. The technique reveals the sun’s interior in much the same way that an ultrasound works on a pregnant woman. By plugging SDO’s high-quality data into the computer model, the researchers might be able to predict how future solar minima will unfold. SDO is just getting started, however, so forecasts will have to wait. (graphics)


FDA pulls more than 500 drugs off market - The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday ordered the removal from the market of more than 500 prescription drugs used to treat colds, coughs and allergies because the medications had never gone through a federal review of their safety and effectiveness. "We don't know what's in them, whether they work properly or how they are made." There are plenty of other cold and allergy medicines available that have received FDA approval. Most patients are believed to use over-the-counter cold medications, rather than prescription drugs, and none of those are affected by Wednesday's action.
In 2008, the FDA issued an advisory that over-the-counter cold medicines should not be used by children under 2 years of age because they could have dangerous side effects and there was little evidence they worked. Since then, agency officials said, many manufacturers of such drugs have relabeled their products to advise that they are not to be used by children under 4. The action on cold medicines is the latest in a campaign by the FDA to remove unapproved drugs from the market. Many have been marketed since before the 1962 federal law that required drugs to undergo agency review for safety and effectiveness. The FDA said many physicians were unaware that they were prescribing drugs that had never been approved. Since 2006, the agency has removed 16 other classes of unapproved drugs from the market. But the cold, cough and allergy class is the largest action by far in terms of the number of drugs covered. The drugs include Cardec, Lodrane, Organidin and Pediahist. Some 27 different ingredients are covered by the drugs on the list. Most of the products are believed to be made in the United States.