Friday, July 29, 2011

U.S. said to be unprepared for severe weather - A top U.S. Senate Democrat said Thursday the federal government is not prepared to handle "catastrophic" weather events. He chaired a hearing of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee to examine the federal government's preparedness for the economic impact of weather events, which he said are growing in frequency and severity. After hearing testimony, he said the federal government should follow the lead of the private sector and begin to focus strategically on the long-term budgetary impacts of severe weather events.
"We are not prepared. Our weather events are getting worse, catastrophic in fact. The private sector is prepared, but the federal government is ignoring the obvious. We need to do more to protect federal assets and respond to growing demands for disaster assistance on an increasing frequency."
After a record-setting 2010, "the U.S. has already experienced eight natural disasters this year -- the previous record was nine. Chicago, in my home state of Illinois, has seen some of the worst weather in history."
In February, Chicago was shut down as 2 feet of snow and 20 mph winds hammered the city, killing 36 people and causing $3.9 billion in damages, and last weekend, the city was hit with the largest recorded single-day rainfall in history. "Combined with last night's severe rainstorms, July 2011 IS NOW THE WETTEST MONTH IN THE 122 YEARS OF CHICAGO'S RECORDED HISTORY."
In 2011, nearly $28 billion in damages already have been caused by catastrophic events, and 2011 is tied for fifth as the deadliest tornado year for the United States since modern record-keeping began in 1950, with 537 casualties. Wildfire conditions in the Southern Plains and Southwest have led to a record breaking 1.79 million acres burned, and record-setting rain caused historic flooding throughout the Midwest that is forecast to rival the Great Flood of 1993.

**We live in the space between disasters.**

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
7/28/11 -

Scientists Study Future Megathrust Earthquake In U.S. Pacific Northwest - The Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, USA, and British Columbia, Canada, could be among the hardest hit locations in the event of a future megathrust earthquake along the Pacific coast. A new study indicates the depth of the fault between the two tectonic plates forming the Earth’s surface in the Pacific Northwest is seven kilometres deeper than previously proposed. It may mean part of the fault’s locked zone — where a megathrust earthquake can occur — could be beneath the Olympic Peninsula.
The team studied a 200-kilometre section of a fault formed by the subduction of the oceanic Juan de Fuca plate under the continental North America plate. In this region, the two plates are converging by four centimetres annually. The section runs north-south from Victoria on Vancouver Island to southern Washington state. Scientists call it a transient slip zone because the fault between two plates slips gradually every 14 months or so. This gradual slip takes place over a two-week period and triggers tremors that are so small people don’t notice them. In this study the slowly slipping section of the fault beneath Washington state was found to be 27 to 42 kilometres deep instead of 25 to 35.
Megathrust earthquakes occur at subduction zones at destructive plate boundaries (convergent boundaries), where one tectonic plate is forced under (subducts) another. Due to the shallow dip of the plate boundary, which causes large sections to get stuck, these earthquakes are among the world’s largest, with moment magnitudes (Mw) that can exceed 9.0. Since 1900, all six earthquakes of magnitude 9.0 or greater have been megathrust earthquakes. No other type of known tectonic activity can produce earthquakes of this scale.
The most recent earthquakes of this scale include the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, the 2010 Maule earthquake in Chile and the Sumatra-Andaman Islands (2004 Indian Ocean) earthquake. Experts say a future megathrust earthquake, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, will occur somewhere off the coasts of B.C., Washington state and California. That is where the Juan de Fuca and North America plates are locked and are known to slip every 500 to 600 years. The last such earthquake was in 1700.
“Changes in rock type also influence the amount of slip on the fault, which determines the size of the earthquake. Some changes in rock type may halt the slip on the fault, others may facilitate the slip. For example, in the 2004 Sumatra megathrust earthquake the fault started to slip in the south and didn’t stop until it was 1,200 kilometres north, three minutes later, which was why the earthquake was so large.” More studies are needed to determine how changes in rock properties influence the location of earthquakes before the magnitude and location of future ones can be predicted. The eastern edge of the locked zone may be located where tremors occur, for example beneath the Olympic Peninsula. Determining exactly where the fault is locked is critical to estimating the size of a future megathrust earthquake. Slip in the transient zone can put pressure on the eastern or landward boundary of the locked zone and trigger the Big One.


Recently El Hierro volcano of the Canary Islands has been experiencing a seismic swarm beneath it, which as of yesterday reached to over 700 events. Most of these events have been at magnitudes of around 2 and are clustered beneath El Hierro. The depths of these earthquakes have been roughly between 9 and 16 km for the most part, with the exception of a few shallower and deeper quakes. The clustering of these earthquakes is mainly confined to an oval area at 10 km depth. El Hierro is a broadly basaltic volcano which might have been active in 1793 although this is uncertain.
So the big question is, what’s happening here? It is possible that there is magma on the move at depth, perhaps moving into a magma chamber. Does this mean that there will be an eruption? Maybe, maybe not. The majority of magma intrusions do not reach the surface, and as has been seen elsewhere, in the past, activity can cease at anytime. As of yet (to my knowledge) there have been no other signs of moving magma at the surface such as ground deformation or increased gas emission, although GPS antenna have been set up by officials at the Canary Islands. For now it is too early to tell what (if anything) will happen, so keep watching. (graph & map)

-TROPICAL STORM DON was located about 335 mi (540 km) SE of Corpus Christi,Texas.

-Tropical storm 10w (Nock-Ten), located approximately 250 nm south-southwest of Hong Kong, China.

-Tropical Storm 11w (Muifa) was located approximately 890 nm south-southeast of Kadena AB ( forecast to eventually head towards Japan.)

TROPICAL STORM DON strengthened slightly Thrusday as it churned through the Gulf of Mexico toward the southeast coast of Texas. At 6pm GMT (4am AEST) on Thursday, Don was 475 miles (765 kilometres) from Corpus Christi and 430 miles from Brownsville, both on the Gulf coast. The storm was expected to make landfall today or Saturday local time. Maximum sustained winds had reached 45 miles per hour, and Don was moving northwest at a speed of 15 mph.
"On this track, the center of Don should... approach the Texas coast on Friday and reach the Texas coast Friday night or Saturday." The storm could gather strength in the next 36 hours. Most of the Gulf coast in Texas was under a storm warning or watch, but oil hubs Galveston and Houston appeared to be in the clear. Don, the fourth tropical storm in the Atlantic this season, is the second to cross the Gulf of Mexico after Arlene hit east and central Mexico in June. The Atlantic hurricane season spans six months from June to November, with the highest number of storms taking place in September and October.

Mere hours after Tropical Storm Juaning (Nock-Ten) left Philippine territory, a new cyclone entered the Philippine area of responsibility Thursday afternoon and was codenamed Kabayan.


SOUTH KOREA - Seoul officials under fire as storm toll hits 59. Authorities came under fire Friday for allegedly "man-made" disasters in South Korea as the toll from this week's RECORD RAINFALL rose to 59 dead and 10 missing. Among the dead were 16 killed when mudslides hit southern parts of Seoul on Wednesday and 13 who perished in a landslide in the Chuncheon region, 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of the capital. Three others died in a landslide at Paju north of Seoul.
Experts and news media attacked Seoul city authorities, accusing them of making the situation worse through an allegedly reckless development of hills near residential areas in the south of the capital. Some hillsides were redeveloped into public parks and hiking tracks, meaning rainwater could not be absorbed so easily, and natural waterways were changed to make artificial lakes, critics said. "The heavens alone are not to be blamed for the disaster as reckless development made it worse. This is why there are claims the disaster is man-made." Experts have been warning that such activities might trigger landslides. "However, administrative authorities have turned a deaf ear to them. Showcase development triggered disaster".
Some residents living under Mount Umyeon in southern Seoul, where eight landslides occurred, believe the disaster was preventable. A storm last September felled many trees on the mountain. But official efforts to replace the trees had been slow, leaving the mountain vulnerable to landslides. The weather agency was also criticised for failing to forecast the FREAKISHLY HEAVY downpour, which battered the capital city of 10 million and densely populated surrounding areas. A total of 301.5 millimeters (just over 12 inches) of rain fell in Seoul on Wednesday, the LARGEST SINGLE-DAY RAINFALL IN JULY SINCE RECORDS BEGAN IN 1907. For three days from Tuesday, Seoul received 536 mm of rain, THE MOST FOR A THREE-DAY PERIOD IN JULY SINCE 1907. The rains left more than 11,000 people from 5,250 households homeless. Power supply was cut to some 130,000 houses nationwide.
Heavy rains also battered North Korea, with the south and east of the country the worst-hit regions. Nearly 100 mm of rain hit the southwestern region of Haeju in just three hours early Thursday.


An exceptional wildfire in northern Alaska in 2007 put as much carbon into the air as the entire Arctic tundra absorbs in a year, scientists say. The Anaktuvuk River fire burned across more than 1,000 sq km (400 sq miles), doubling the extent of Alaskan tundra visited by fire since 1950. With the Arctic warming fast, the team suggests that fires could become more common. If that happens, it COULD CREATE A NEW CLIMATE FEEDBACK, they say.
Fires in the tundra are uncommon because the ground is covered in snow and ice for large periods of the year. Temperatures are low even in summer, and the ground can also remain wet after the ice has melted. But 2007 saw unusually warm and dry conditions across much of the Arctic - resulting, among other things, in spectacularly fast melting of Arctic sea ice. This created conditions more conducive to fire, and when lightning struck the tundra in July, the Anaktuvuk River fire ignited. "Most tundra fires have been very small - this was an order of magnitude larger than the historical size. In 2007, we had a hot, dry summer, there was no rain for a long period of time. So the tundra must have been highly flammable, with just the right conditions for fire to spread until the snow in October finally stopped it."
According to the team's calculations, the statistics of the fire are remarkable. It is the largest on record, doubling the cumulative area burned since 1950. It put carbon into the atmosphere about 100 times faster than it usually escapes from the ground in the Arctic summer, and released more than 2 million tonnes. Although a small contribution to global emissions, this is about the same amount as the entire swathe of tundra around the Arctic absorbs in a single year.
The melting of Arctic sea ice suggests 2007's record may be broken this year There is some vegetation on the summer lands, which did burn; but the main fuel is carbon in the ground itself. The Anaktuvuk fire burned down to a maximum depth of 15cm (6in), and was burning carbon sequestered away over the last 50 years. What this implies for the future is uncertain. Climate models generally predict warmer temperatures across the Arctic, which could increase the frequency of fires and so a net loss of carbon into the atmosphere - reinforcing global warming. On the other hand, plant life could flourish under these conditions, potentially increasing absorption and sequestering of carbon from the atmosphere. The northern region of Alaska could become "vastly different from the frozen, treeless tundra of today. "And it's one that may feed back positively to global climate change."
Another impact of the fire that has yet to be fully assessed is that the blackened soil absorbs more solar energy than normally vegetated tundra. This abets melting of the permafrost layer below. "Once permafrost melts beyond a certain depth on a slope, then all of the organic layer slides down the slope like a landslide. This whole issue of melting can lead to other huge changes in drainage, in areas of wetlands - releasing carbon that's been frozen since the Pleistocene [Epoch, which ended more than 10,000 years ago]."
The latest data on Arctic sea ice, meanwhile, reveals that 2011 could well see a melting season that will beat the 2007 record. Currently, about the same area of sea is covered in ice as at the same point in 2007, which the US National Snow and Ice Data Center ascribes to "persistent above-average temperatures and an early start to [the] melt".


BIG SUNSPOTS: NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of M-class solar flares today. The source would be one of three big sunspots emerging along the sun's northeastern limb. Among the three, the leading sunspot AR1260 is most active. It has produced more than a dozen C-class flares in the past 24 hours, more than doubling the total for the entire month of July so far. New sunspot AR1263, however, could eventually cause more trouble. Magnetograms of the active region reveal a delta-class magnetic field that harbors energy for powerful X-class eruptions


-Flying Food Group recalls additional sandwiches, parfaits, wraps, plates, and salads) because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.