Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lots to worry about today -

Fukushima 'melt-THROUGH' fears - For the first time, Japanese authorities have suggested the situation may have gone BEYOND a meltdown. An official report, which Japan will submit to the UN's nuclear watchdog, says nuclear fuel IN THREE REACTORS at Fukushima has possibly melted through the pressure vessels and accumulated in outer containment vessels. This "melt-through" is far worse than a core meltdown, and is THE WORST POSSIBILITY in a nuclear accident. In the report, Japan also admits it was unprepared for the scale of the Fukushima disaster, which struck after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March. The report also acknowledges there was insufficient communication between the government and the plant's operator.
Japan has MORE THAN DOUBLED THE ESTIMATE OF RADIATION LEAKED at the nuclear plant in the days after quake. The revision, almost three months after the earthquake and tsunami, is likely to fuel criticism of the way information about the accident was initially disseminated.
Japan on Monday more than doubled its initial estimate of radiation released from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the week after the tsunami, just before an official investigation into the accident was set to begin on Tuesday. The nation's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency now says that it believes 770,000 terabecquerels escaped into the atmosphere in the first week after the March 11 earthquake, compared with its earlier estimate of 370,000 terabecquerels released in the first month.
The Japanese nuclear regulatory agency also said that it believes that reactor cores at some of the units at the Fukushima plant melted much faster than the plant operator had previously suggested. The regulatory agency added that the reactor pressure vessel at one of the Fukushima reactors appeared to have been compromised as early as five hours after the earthquake. Japanese government safety officials played down suggestions of a greater impact on human health or food safety in the affected area as a result of the revision. It also said the new report wouldn't change the timeline for bringing the nuclear reactors to a safe shutdown.

**Opportunities multiply as they are seized.**
Sun Tzu

This morning -

Yesterday -
6/7/11 -

U.S. - Quake on Unknown Fault Rattles St. Louis, Missouri. A magnitude 3.9 earthquake struck overnight near St. Louis, next to the notorious New Madrid seismic zone. Residents reported SHAKING FOR UP TO 30 MINUTES. The quake struck about 3 miles (5 kilometers) underground and about 50 miles (82 km) southwest of St. Louis.
The rupture was on an unknown fault in the Illinois basin-Ozark dome region, which is adjacent to the more famous — and more seismically active — New Madrid seismic zone. About 200 years ago, the New Madrid zone unleashed a series of powerful earthquakes that downed trees and sent waves on the Mississippi River roaring over its banks. The Illinois basin-Ozark dome region has never seen a quake that big. This region covers parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. The region has known faults but numerous smaller or deeply buried faults remain undetected. Even the known faults are poorly located, so few earthquakes in the region can be linked to named faults and it is difficult to determine if a known fault is still active and could slip and cause an earthquake.
Moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the region each decade or two, and smaller earthquakes are felt about once or twice a year. The largest historical earthquake in the region (magnitude 5.4) damaged southern Illinois in 1968. A multi-state earthquake drill was held in the region earlier this year to raise awareness of the fault systems and their potential to rupture.
The American Red Cross took the quake as an opportunity to remind people to have a plan in case of a disaster. The Red Cross suggests people put together an emergency preparedness kit that is portable and stored in a water-resistant container. The kit should have enough supplies for three days. If you already have a kit, check to see that nothing has expired. The kit should include a first-aid kit; essential medications; canned food and a can opener; at least three gallons of water per person; protective clothing; bedding or sleeping bags; a battery-powered radio; and a flashlight with extra batteries. The kit also should include written instructions for how to turn off gas, electricity and water if authorities say it should be done. The American Red Cross said everyone should also have an earthquake plan. Know the safe place in every room where you can seek shelter, such as beneath a sturdy table or desk or against an inside wall where nothing can fall on you. Teach children to drop, cover, and hold on.

NEW ZEALAND - Continuing shakes, disruption taking mental toll. Continuing earthquakes are pushing some Christchurch people to breaking point, with children regressing to behaviours such as bed-wetting, fear of being separated from parents and nightmares and sleep disturbance. One Christchurch psychologist says the disruption to daily life resulting from the quake damage seems to be taking a greater toll than the aftershocks themselves. "It's my belief that it's less directly linked to aftershocks than to the ongoing difficulties with getting on with your life. I think that's what's stressing people out and wearing them down."
The aftershocks have kept coming since the February 22 quake in the city that left 181 people dead. On Monday - only a few days after scientists revealed there was a ONE IN FOUR CHANCE OF ANOTHER BIG QUAKE in the year ahead - the city was rattled by a frightening 5.5 magnitude aftershock. "It's like sitting on the edge ... and waiting for it happen. You know it's going to happen but you don't know when. Every time you have these shudders, you don't know how big it is going to get. I quite believe there is going to be another [large quake], and it may even be bigger than the ones we have had." Some children have grown used to the shaking, but others were "re-traumatised" with every new quake. The effect on some fits the criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder.


Chile and Argentina monitor volcano ash cloud trail - Chilean authorities have expanded the evacuation area around the Puyehue-Cordon-Caulle volcano range that continues to spew out ash. Officials say there is a danger of flash floods caused by rivers being silted up with volcanic grit.

Tropical Storm Adrian (formerly Tropical Depression 01E) formed far out in the Eastern Pacific off the western coast of Mexico - the projected path keeps it out at sea.

Cyclone advisory issued for the Arabian Sea - The Pakistan Meteorological Department on Monday issued an advisory about the formation of a tropical cyclone in the eastern Arabian Sea, saying that it would cause rains in the metropolis by Friday. As an initial effect of this cyclonic activity, temperatures will rise in Sindh and Punjab provinces following a change in wind pattern. “Latest meteorological data indicates that a well-marked low pressure area has developed in the Eastern Arabian Sea near western coast of India…The current sea surface temperatures (around 30 degree centigrade) and other meteorological parameters are favourable for the development of a depression (strong weather system) during the next 24 hours.” In June last year, cyclone Phet roared past Karachi before it made landfall on the coast of Thatta district. It left a trail of destruction in its wake, particularly along the Makran coast.

A large area of low pressure over the northwest Caribbean Sea is becoming less likely to develop into a tropical storm, though it could bring some rain to Florida, forecasters said.


U.S. - More residents flee as Arizona Wallow fire grows. A huge wildfire in the US state of Arizona that has forced thousands from their homes, continues to grow as the blaze rages for a 10th day. The so-called Wallow fire is NOW THE SECOND-LARGEST IN THE STATE'S HISTORY. Winds fuelling the flames drove the last hold-outs from Greer, a small town near the New Mexico boarder, and threatened 7,000 residents nearby. At this point, official say, THE WILDFIRE IS CONSIDERED TO BE 0% CONTAINED.
Firefighters used bulldozers on Tuesday, to clear away brush and trees, attempting to create a barrier for area homes as the fire approaches. Officials say the wildfire is about 10 miles (16 km) outside the adjacent towns of Eagar and Springerville, where residents are preparing to evacuate. Over the border in New Mexico residents of the town of Luna are on similar alert.
Winds have been moving the flames five to eight miles per day since it started over a week ago, possibly caused by an unattended campfire. Smoke rising from the flames had reached right across the country on Tuesday, visible six states to the east, and cancelled flights hundreds of miles away. No serious injuries were reported, but the fire cut into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and the surrounding town's futures remained in doubt.
The fire has now consumed 311,481 acres (486 sq miles; 1,258 sq km). The roughly 2,500 firefighters battling the blaze - drafted in from as far away as New York - are being hampered by winds of about 30mph (50km/h), with gusts above 60mph (100km/h). As of Tuesday no progress had been made containing the fire but it was hoped some gains would be made by Thursday or Friday. "It's entirely dependent on weather conditions in that part of the state right now." A state of emergency has been declared in the counties of Apache and Greenlee. As well as Arizona, smoke is said to be visible in New Mexico, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado - where some municipal health departments have issued air-quality warnings.
Meanwhile, another wildfire is burning in south-eastern Arizona and threatening two small communities. A thousand firefighters are tackling that blaze, which is listed as 55% contained. (video & map)

U.S. - Parts of the east coast were put on alert Tuesday for a heatwave as UNSEASONALLY HIGH TEMPERATURES began sweeping the US. Temperatures were expected to soar up to 20 degrees above average in the northeast and could break records by midweek.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning from noon Tuesday until 8pm Wednesdayfor much of southeastern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware and west central New Jersey. Tuesday's temperature in Philadelphia is expected to reach 96F (35.5C) - one degree above the city's record set for June 8 in 2008 - while today's projected high is 98F, which would tie the 1933 record. Less severe heat advisories were issued for other areas, including New York City, and a few severe thunderstorms could be expected to erupt across northern New York State and New England as the heat rolls in.
Meanwhile, parts of the Midwest from Minnesota to Kentucky were already experiencing HISTORIC HIGH TEMPERATURES. Minneapolis, Minnesota, Tuesday had a high of at least 102F - marking the hottest day since July 15, 1988, and the second-earliest 100F reading in the city since 1872. [Yes it's hot...but I didn't put on the air conditioner. Got to toughen up and get used to these extreme temperatures! The worst is the heaving of the pavement on the highways and lanes being shut down because of it.] Temperatures in Milwaukee, Wisconsin had reached 97F by the afternoon, topping the previous record for June 7, set in 1933 at 95F. In Lexington, Kentucky - where normal temperatures for this time of year are in the low 80s - residents could see the city's record of 95F be tied or broken this week. In Cincinnati temperatures swelled into the 90s.
The National Weather Service warned that hot temperatures combined with high humidity could put residents in danger of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. It advised people in affected areas to wear light and loose fitting clothing and to drink as much water as possible.

The world's worst food security crisis is continuing in the eastern Horn of Africa, a US agency has warned. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) said areas of particular concern were in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. It said large-scale emergency assistance was urgently needed "to save lives and treat acute malnutrition" in the region. It also stressed that the current humanitarian response was "inadequate".
The eastern Horn of Africa "has experienced two consecutive seasons of significantly below-average rainfall, resulting in ONE OF THE DRIEST YEARS SINCE 1995". Crops have failed and local cereal prices remain very high. "This is the most severe food security emergency in the world today." In southern Ethiopia and some pastoral areas of Somalia, "poor households are unable to access the basic food supplies needed for survival". Recent nutrition surveys suggest that global acute malnutrition remained above 20% in the region, and more than seven million people need humanitarian assistance.


Has your HDTV reception been shaky? - Tuesday morning around 0641 UT, magnetic fields above sunspot complex 1226-1227 unexpectedly became unstable and erupted. The blast produced an M2-class solar flare, an S1-class radiation storm, and a massive CME. (videos)
A recording of the dramatic blast from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows material splashing back to the stellar surface. It appeared to rain back down over half of the sun's entire surface. "I've never seen material released this way before. It looks like someone kicked a clod of dirt in the air - an amazing, amazing event." Energetic charged particles ("radiation storm") were accelerated by the explosion and are now peppering Earth-orbiting satellites and spacecraft. Although the blast was not squarely Earth-directed, it will affect our planet. The CME should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th.
Over the past few days, amateur astronomers have recorded some of the most photogenic solar activity in years. Onlookers describe huge prominences of magnetized plasma rising above the stellar surface as "Unbelievable!"--"Hydrogen at its best"--"Massive and incredible!" (photos)


About 600 dead PENGUINS have washed up on Uruguay's Atlantic coast over the past few days. Experts are trying to determine what has killed the animals. The latest batch is 200 dead Magellan penguins discovered on the shore at La Paloma about 200km east of Montevideo. A marine animal rescue group previously reported that the carcasses of 400 Magellan penguins washed up around the resort town of Piriapolis along with dead TURTLES, DOLPHINS and ALBATROSSES. The resort is about halfway between Montevideo and La Paloma. Experts say it is common for dead penguins to appear in the area at this time of year, but the extent of the die-off appears to be UNUSUAL.

German doctors trying experimental E. coli treatments with some success. Faced with an UNPRECEDENTED outbreak of E.coli, German doctors are trying a new approach: a massive blood plasma exchange programme, in combination with an experimental antibiotic therapy. The new treatment has proven highly successful in curing the disease, but some fear it MAY DO MORE HARM than good.
The antibiotic treatment has shown promise, but concerns remain about possibly fatal side effects. There are even worries the therapy COULD CAUSE THE BACTERIA TO MUTATE INTO A SUPER-RESISTANT STRAIN. Officials at the World Health Organization and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention typically recommend against using antibiotics in E. coli cases. This is because they can cause the bacteria to release more toxins.
The only conventional treatments for E. coli are drinking water and intravenous fluid replacement. With early signs of success, the new treatment its being taken up by other German hospitals. Some have even adopted antibiotics as their default treatment for all new serious cases.