Friday, April 22, 2011

6.2-magnitude quake hits Japan as nuclear plant sealed off - Japan said on Thursday it would ban anyone entering a 20-kilometre evacuation zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant north of Tokyo, weeks after the tsunami-wrecked facility began leaking radiation. An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 hit eastern Japan on Thursday evening, but no tsunami warning was issued and there were no immediate reports of any casualties or damage.
Tens of thousands of people left the zone after the March 11 quake smashed the Fukushima Dai-ichi power station, operated by Tokyo Electric Power, but some have gone back to collect belongings as the utility struggles to contain the world’s most serious nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. Anyone breaking the ban can be fined up to 100,000 yen ($1,200) or be detained by police. TEPCO has said it may take the rest of the year or longer to bring the plant under control.
More than 130,000 people are living in school gymnasiums and other shelters more than a month after the March 11 quake and tsunami that left some 28,000 dead or missing. TEPCO wants a “cold shutdown” of the plant, 240 km from the capital, within six to nine months, a timeline experts say will be tough to meet. This week it began pumping highly contaminated water from one of the reactors, a key step toward repairing the cooling system that regulates the temperature of radioactive fuel rods. But water levels were unchanged, the latest in a litany of problems engineers have faced since the crisis began, which has included pumping radioactive water into the sea, to the concern of Japan’s neighbours.
The amount of radiation included in water released from April 1-6 into the sea was at 20,000 times the amount Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency allows for the plant to release outdoors annually. TEPCO insists that while fuel rods at three of its six reactors were damaged when they partially melted after the quake, they are not in “meltdown.”

**Do not blame God for having created the tiger,
but thank Him for not having given it wings.**
Ethiopian proverb

This morning -

Yesterday -
4/21/11 -
a cluster of moderate quakes in Baja California, Mexico

Here's why Japan's earth quake was so strong - The first two hours of Japan's massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake has revealed surprising information about how such huge earthquakes rupture. The earthquake ruptured several areas of a fault that in the past have ruptured alone, contrary to what many scientists would have predicted. If the earthquake had recruited still more nearby segments where massive aftershocks struck, the quake could have been even bigger.
The March 11 earthquake is now the fourth-largest ever recorded in the world. The quake struck off the coast of the Tohoku region of Japan, triggering a deadly tsunami that may have killed nearly 30,000 people. The rumbling didn't end with this massive rupture, and it hasn't stopped today. More than 60 aftershocks of magnitude 6.0 or greater have struck the region.
The main rupture lasted more than 3.5 minutes, although most of the energy was released in the first 2 minutes. The rupture associated with the main shock was about 155 miles long and 109 miles wide. Then came the aftershocks. Over the first few hours after the initial temblor, several aftershocks hit, many with a magnitude of 6.4 or greater. The largest aftershock to date was a magnitude 7.9 that struck less than an hour after the main shock. All told, the quake ruptured five areas within the region that have previously ruptured as separate earthquakes, according to preliminary data. The fact that these areas linked together during the March 11 quake is probably why it was unexpectedly large.
The way the quake ruptured is contrary to the previously held idea of segmentation — that the fault is segmented into areas that are more likely to rupture individually." "That's why the Japanese seismic hazard maps did not assume that an earthquake this large could hit this region — because in previous cases that area did not all rupture together in one big quake." (map)

NEW ZEALAND - Surfers, weekend trippers, the elderly and young children - many have left Christchurch in the two months since the quake, leaving it feeling a little too quiet and empty. And the aftershocks are continuing.
The latest tremor plonked a resident from his swivel chair on to the coffee table, threw his casserole dish and plates across the kitchen and splayed CDs from their rack as if they were clay pigeons. This was last Saturday. Then he discovered the pipes on the hot water cylinder had broken again and water cascaded from upstairs through the wardrobe below and across the bedroom.
Water and sewage pipes fracture on a regular basis and the 5.3-magnitude quake on Saturday caused the water main in the subur of Redcliffs to fracture and send a column of water streaking 30m (98ft) into the air. The road as it began to resemble a lake, with the orange road cones floating off. But even that was not too bad. The people of Brighton suffered more liquefaction (a phenomenon that afflicts loose sediments in a quake and is akin to a lateral landslide). The heavy rain gave the area the appearance of a wet cement lake. The stress of cleaning it all up again is becoming very wearing. A couple of dozen water mains burst across the city of Christchurch. Residents were told to use water sparingly as the system is still very fragile. The real problem is the sewage which is discharged into the Heathcote river estuary and into the sea. The treatment plant is only just coping and in danger of turning anaerobic and creating an almighty stink.
People have mostly moved to other parts of New Zealand. Wanaka, Timaru and Ashburton are popular. Some have gone to the North Island as well, if that is where they have family. They don't see so many weekend trippers these days and miss the weekend trippers who brought colour and money. Now they come with binoculars and cameras and stand and stare with disbelief, uttering "Oh my goodness". They have seen it on TV but now they are seeing for real the houses perched over the edge of the cliffs that have broken away, the gigantic boulders that have landed on and near houses. They usually come to enjoy the rhythm of the sea, now they feel seasick just travelling along the broken, bumpy roads.

No current tropical storms.


Ozone hole has dried Australia - The Antarctic ozone hole is about one-third to blame for Australia's recent series of droughts, scientists say. They conclude that the hole has shifted wind and rainfall patterns right across the Southern Hemisphere, even the tropics.
Their climate models suggest the effect has been notably strong over Australia. Many parts of the country have seen drought in recent years, with cities forced to invest in technologies such as desalination, and farms closing. The scientists behind the new study added the ozone hole into standard climate models to investigate how it might have affected winds and rains. "The ozone hole results in a southward shift of the high-latitude circulation - and the whole tropical circulation shifts southwards too."
Of particular interest was the southward migration of the Southern Hemisphere jet stream. These high-altitude winds are key to determining weather patterns, in both hemispheres. Much of the cold weather felt in the UK over the last couple of winters, for example, was caused by blocking of the Northern Hemisphere stream. Overall, the ozone hole has resulted in rainfall moving south along with the winds. But there are regional differences, particularly concerning Australia. "In terms of the average for that zone, [the ozone hole drives] about a 10% change - but for Australia, it's about 35%."
Their modelling indicated that global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions was also a factor - although natural climate cycles are also thought to be important, as Australia suffered severe droughts in the era before ozone depletion and before the warming seen in the late 20th Century.
"This study does illustrate the important point that different mechanisms of global change are contributing to the climate impacts we're seeing around the world. It's very important to unpack them all rather than assuming that any impact we see is down simply to greenhouse gas-mediated warming." Ozone depletion is caused by chemical reactions in the stratosphere, the upper atmosphere. The chemicals involved derive from substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and their relatives, which used to be staples in air-conditioning, refrigeration and aerosol cans.
Although the UN Montreal Protocol has significantly curbed emissions of these substances, they endure for decades in the atmosphere, and so their effects are still being felt.
The ozone layer blocks the Sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, which can cause skin cancer and other medical conditions. Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization revealed that the Arctic was experiencing THE WORST OZONE DEPLETION ON RECORD - a consequence of UNUSUAL weather conditions. But the forecast is that even the Antarctic ozone hole - which is more severe than its Arctic equivalent - should be repaired by 2045-60. This alone will not restore prior climate conditions to Australia or anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. "As the ozone hole repairs, it is going to work to reverse this trend; but there is also the rising trend in carbon dioxide, and that is acting in the same direction as the ozone hole."
Australia's persistently dry weather has caused major impacts on communities, farms and nature.
In recent years, the volume of water flowing into the reservoirs of Perth, the Western Australian capital, has been just one third of what it was during most of the 20th Century. The Murray-Darling basin, which lies in the highly populated southeast, is the subject of a somewhat controversial plan aiming to distribute water fairly against a backdrop of over-extraction, prolonged drought, natural climate variability and greenhouse gas-mediated global warming.

Firefighters killed in Texas wildfire. - MASSIVE wildfires ripping across the bone-dry state of Texas have claimed the lives of two firefighters and consumed more than 730,000 hectares and nearly 400 homes. A cold front which brought some relief after weeks of battling the blazes was expected to lift on Friday as higher temperatures returned to the Lone Star state. The fire service warned that it will take several consecutive days of rain to counter the underlying and persistent drought conditions across the country's second-largest state.