Thursday, June 23, 2011

UPDATE - Alaska tsunami warning has been issued for a number of coastal communities in Alaska following a magnitude 7.4 earthquake late Thursday evening.

A Scary Report Card on the World's Oceans - You can eventually become inured to catastrophe. Every ecosystem is on the brink of collapse; every endangered species is just a few steps from extinction; every government decision to authorize an oil well or a coal mine is the one that will push carbon emissions over the edge. The language of environmentalism is the language of scarcity and loss, a constantly repeated message that we cannot continue living the way we are, or else. But while news of Earth's impending doom can sometimes seem exaggerated, there's one environmental disaster that never gets the coverage it really deserves: the state of the oceans. Most people know that wild fisheries are dwindling, and we might know that low-oxygen aquatic dead zones are blooming around the planet's most crowded coasts. But THE OCEANS APPEAR TO BE UNDERGOING FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES — many of them for the worse — THAT WE CAN BARELY UNDERSTAND, in part because we barely understand that vast blue territory that covers 70% of the globe.
That's the conclusion of a surprising new report issued by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), a global panel of marine experts that met this year to examine the latest science on ocean health. That health, they found, is not good. According to the authors, WE ARE "AT HIGH RISK FOR ENTERING A PHASE OF EXTINCTION OF MARINE SPECIES UNPRECEDENTED IN HUMAN HISTORY."
It's not just about overfishing or marine pollution or even climate change. It's all of those destructive factors working cumulatively and occurring much more rapidly than scientists had expected. "The findings are shocking. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, our children's and generations beyond that."
What's particularly scary is that while we can be sure we're changing the oceans, it's not so easy to measure the extent of the damage or predict how it will unfold, simply because observations are harder to make underwater than they are on land. (Human beings have explored just 5% of the total volume of the oceans so far.) It's not just a matter of taking bluefin tuna and other valuable species out of the oceans through industrial fishing. The more worrying changes are happening on a chemical level. The oceans have already absorbed more than 80% of the additional heat added to the climate system and about 33% of the carbon dioxide we've emitted into the atmosphere. That's slowed down climate change on land, but it's changing the pH levels of the water in ways that could have a bigger impact on sea life than a thousand factory-fishing boats.
The rate of carbon absorption right now is far greater than the rate seen some 55 million years ago. That was when the last globally significant extinction of marine species took place, when 50% of some groups of deep-sea animals were wiped out. We can try to restrict fishing, and we can work to protect sensitive coral reefs and other habitats for marine life. But if we can't figure out a way to curb global carbon emissions, we may alter the oceans beyond their ability to heal themselves — at least in ways that will support marine life as we know it.
Despite the scary IPSO reports — and scores of others like it that have been published in the past — the oceans seem likely to continue to get less attention than they need and deserve. Maybe that's because we're fundamentally land-based creatures. Anyone can see a clear-cut rain forest and know that something was lost, but on the surface, a living sea and a dead one look much the same. We used to think the oceans were far too vast for mere humans to affect — but we should know that's not the case any longer. Earth is often tougher than we think, but if we don't do something, we really do risk irrevocably altering the blue in our blue planet.

**A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth.
The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water.
Even so, life is but an endless series
of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts.
And the consequences, whether good or bad,
of even the least of them are far-reaching.**

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
6/22/11 -

JAPAN - A magnitude-6.7 earthquake rattled northeast Japan on Thursday morning. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning for the region after the quake, but canceled it about an hour later. The temblor struck the region of the Pacific where the magnitude-9.0 quake hit on March 11. Thursday's quake hit about 30 miles (47 kilometers) off the shore of Iwate prefecture at 6:51 a.m. (2151 GMT Wednesday). Much of the coast in the area is still heavily damaged from March's disasters. The quake, 19.9 miles (32 kilometers) deep, caused tremors across the northern half of the country, including Tokyo, which is about 325 miles (524 kilometers) to the southwest. It was followed by several smaller aftershocks.


CHILE - Experts have warned that a "cork" of lava could lead to another explosion at the Puyehue volcano. Seismic activity has declined, with two tremors of a magnitude of around 2.5 recorded every hour yesterday, compared with several hundred of a magnitude of four or five in the hours preceding the initial June 4 eruption. But Chile's National Service of Geology and Mining, which monitors volcanic activity, said today the volcano had to be kept on red alert because of the possibility of another explosion.
Geologists said a "cork" of lava, which emerged yesterday and was blocking even more lava from spewing forth, had the potential to create a huge build-up in pressure. If this continues, "an explosive event remains possible because the path the lava is taking is obstructed, or because the eruption dynamic has changed."
The travel misery continued for many today with Chile's national carrier suspending flights to both Temuco and Valdivia in the south and delaying services on several other routes. Several more southern Chilean cities, including Rininahue, Llifen, Futrono, Villarrica and Pucon, were hit yesterday by a cascade of fine ash.
And in Australia today, several thousand airline passengers continued to face numerous delays.
Meanwhile in southern Argentina's Patagonia, ranchers were becoming seriously concerned about up to 1.5 million sheep and other livestock now forced to graze on ash-covered pastures.
NASA AND NOAA Release Images of Recent Volcanic Eruption in Chile - Puyehue-Cordon Caulle is one of 2,085 volcanoes that have erupted in the last 450 years along the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire.
Puyehue-Cordon Caulle had been inactive for decades but erupted on June 4th. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have recently released a two week movie of images captured by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite of the eruption and its progress.
Initially, the ash cloud caused by the volcano was a staggering twenty miles high, stopping air traffic as far away as New Zealand and Australia. Now however, the ash cloud is only a few kilometers in height and is sputtering, giving experts hope that life will soon return to normal in austral Chile. Satellite images throughout the two weeks show the ash cloud reach 30 kilometers into the atmosphere and its slow but sure decline. The GOES-13 satellite has taken 445 images of the eruption, the film has a running time of 1 hour, 14 minutes.



Tropical Depression Haima, formerly known as 06W continues moving toward Hong Kong and NASA infrared satellite imagery shows strong rain-making thunderstorms in the southern quadrant of the storm. Rainfall is something that a rain-weary China doesn't need more of.


U.S. - An apparent tornado struck Wednesday night at Churchill Downs, the thoroughbred racetrack famed as home of the Kentucky Derby, damaging some barns, but no injuries were reported. The presumed twister touched down between 8 and 8:30 p.m. local time in the midst of several powerful thunderstorms moving through the greater Louisville, Kentucky, area.
Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses remained without power in the Midwest on Wednesday, a day after severe weather tore through the region and parts of the South. A slow-moving storm system drenched the central part of the nation, bringing large hail and winds of up to 100 miles per hour from Chicago to Dallas, grounding planes, stranding passengers and delaying commutes in Chicago.
About 220,000 customers in Chicago and its suburbs were without power Wednesday afternoon, down from 430,000. Many could remain so for at least another day. In Mount Prospect, a Chicago suburb, large trees snapped or were uprooted, and roofs were damaged. "This damage is consistent with straight line winds of 90 to 100 mph." Airlines operating at O'Hare International Airport canceled more than 250 flights due to the storms and some flights were delayed.
The severe weather hit hardest in Illinois, southeastern Wisconsin up into northern Indiana and southern Michigan. Tornado warnings were issued for parts of the Midwest ahead of Tuesday's storms. Early storm reports included four possible tornado sightings in Minnesota and Wisconsin and several reports of funnel clouds. Storm damage teams were in Blaine and Coon Rapids, Minnesota on Wednesday to assess the damage and determine if there were any tornadoes. As the storms tracked east, the threat for severe weather on Wednesday was expected to move into the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley. Residents in Tennessee also felt the wrath of severe weather as thunderstorms and high winds rolled across the region on Tuesday striking most intensely in Knoxville. Thousands remained without power in that east Tennessee city on Wednesday.
Further south in Dallas more than 22,000 customers were without power after storms SHATTERED A RAIN RECORD SET IN 1926. [ 2.72 inches was recorded, including 2.16 inches between 3 and 4 am, more than twice the 1.07 inches that fell in 1926. The rain came close to the monthly average.] The severe weather is set to continue as high temperatures are expected to reach triple digits in Dallas and other areas of Texas and nearby states in the coming days. Areas in Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Louisiana, Vermont and New York remain at risk from flooding, and thunderstorms, hail, and strong wind are forecasted across the country.


A CME propelled toward Earth by the "solstice solar flare" of June 21st may be moving slower than originally thought. Analysts at the GSFC Space Weather Lab have downgraded the cloud's probable speed from 800 km/s to 650 km/s. Impact is now expected on June 24th at 0700 UT plus or minus 7 hours. A slower CME should deliver a weaker blow to Earth's magnetic field. Forecasters now predict a relatively mild G1-class (Kp=5) geomagnetic storm when the cloud arrives. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras during the early hours of June 24. The season favors observers in the southern hemisphere where solstice skies are winter-dark. (animated forecast model)