Friday, August 26, 2011

Can Animals Sense Earthquakes First? Animals at the National Zoo in DC clustered together, let out a cry before the quake. Orangutans, gorillas, flamingos and red-ruffed lemurs acted strangely before humans detected the historic magnitude-5.8 Virginia earthquake. Now the question hovering over the zoo is: What did the animals know, and when did they know it?
Therein lies a scientific mystery, one in which hard facts and solid observations are entangled with lore and legend. There has been talk over the years about mysterious electromagnetic fields generated by rupturing faults. There has been speculation about sounds inaudible to humans, and subtle tilting in rock formations, and the release of vapors that people can’t smell.
But there also may be less to the mystery than meets the eye, with Tuesday’s zoo weirdness merely serving as a reminder that many wild animals are paying close attention to nature while humans are doing whatever it is that humans do. The zoo documented a broad range of animal behavior before, during and after the tremor that began in central Virginia and shook much of the eastern United States. For example, a gorilla shrieked and grabbed her baby, racing to the top of a climbing structure just seconds before the ground began to shake dramatically. Two other apes — an orangutan and a gorilla — already had dropped their food and skedaddled to higher turf.
The 64 flamingos seemed to sense the tumult a number of seconds in advance as well, clustering together in a nervous huddle before the quake hit. One of the zoo’s elephants made a low-pitched noise as if to communicate with two other elephants. And red-ruffed lemurs emitted an alarm cry a full 15 minutes before the temblor. During the quake, the zoo grounds were filled with howls and cries. The snakes, normally inert in the middle of the day, writhed and slithered. Beavers stood on their hind legs and then jumped into a pond. The Komodo dragon ran for cover. Lions resting outside suddenly stood up and stared at their building as the walls shook. A Sumatran tiger leaped as if startled but quickly settled down. Some animals remained agitated for the rest of the day, wouldn’t eat and didn’t go to sleep on their usual schedule.

**How can you defy fear?
Fear is a human instinct, just like hunger.
Whether you like it or not, you become hungry.
Similarly with fear."
Shirin Ebadi

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.
Cluster of moderate quakes (29 so far) in CZECH REPUBLIC. [Interestingly, for the past week, they've seen "UNUSUAL TWILIGHT RAYS probably caused by high-attitude aerosols from Nabro, the volcano which erupted in Eritrea on June 13th...On August 23, around 20 minutes after sunset these significant crepuscular rays appeared like shining fingers in the western sky. The rays were so strong, I could see them almost directly overhead; and in the south, they stretched across the horizon like great red and purple stripes." Purple is one of the telltale colors of a volcanic sunset. Fine volcanic aerosols in the stratosphere scatter blue light which, when mixed with ordinary sunset red, produces a violet hue. Sky watchers in Europe should be alert for the volcanic sunsets. ]

Yesterday -
8/25/11 -

8/24/11 -

The East Coast quake spurred nuclear operators at 12 plants from North Carolina to Michigan to declare “UNUSUAL EVENTS,” the NRC's lowest-level emergency designation.

Earth 'shook like a hammock' in Peru quake - A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck a remote Amazon region of Peru on Wednesday, shaking office buildings in the capital Lima about 370 miles away.
A strong but deep earthquake shook a sparsely populated northern jungle region on Wednesday near Brazil's border. There were no reports of damage or injuries. The quake had a magnitude of 7.0 and was centered 50 miles north of the jungle city of Pucallpa. In Pucallpa, buildings shook, trees swayed, and people headed out into the street. An unidentified local woman said the earth shook "like a hammock." A police spokesman in the Brazilian town of Cruzeiro do Sul, about 135 miles northeast of Pucallpa, said the quake hit hard and buildings trembled. Because of its depth, the quake only felt like a 5-magnitude to Pucallpa's residents. Peru is among the world's most seismically active countries. Its most recent deadly quake occurred on Aug. 15, 2007. The 7.9-magnitude temblor killed 596 people and largely destroyed the coastal city of Pisco just south of Lima.


Niger probes volcanic-like activity in north - Nigerian authorities and France's Areva group have sent experts to investigate eruptions, smoke and fumes spouting from a mountain in the West African nation's northern uranium mining district of Arlit. Earlier this week, residents reported two days of activity. Experts dispatched to take samples found cracks in the mountainside and rocks 400 metres away. There were no reports of injuries or damage to mines.
"According to the witnesses who alerted the authorities, when they heard explosions, they initially thought it was an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. The mountain rumbled, giving the impression that it was collapsing. Black smoke rose and there was a smell of gas, as it was coming from fuel." State radio said local government authorities and geologists and chemists from Areva, which has several uranium mining interests in the region, visited the mountain on Tuesday to take samples. The northeast of Arlit is home to the Air mountains, but volcanic activity in the area is long thought to have ended. There were no further details immediately available.

INDONESIA - Volcano Agency Warns of Likely Papandayan Eruption. Indonesia’s highly active Mount Papandayan volcano is in imminent danger of erupting, the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency warned on Wednesday. The agency said it was likely the volcano in Garut, West Java, would erupt either before or just after Idul Fitri, which marks the end of Ramadan. The prediction was based on the increasing activity of the volcano.
“The volcano has more energy compared to its last eruption in 2002." Papandayan has shown an alarming increase in activities since the volcano’s status was raised to standby. Between Aug. 19 and 20, there were 45 earthquakes. “If the quakes increase to 60, an eruption will happen. If Papandayan erupts, the annual exodus routes will be blocked and 16 subdistricts in Garut will be isolated.” The BNPB has prepared evacuation routes and emergency shelters for people living within 5 kilometers of the crater.

- Hurricane Irene was located about 460 mi / 740 km SSW of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Irene will continue to move away from the northwestern Bahamas and the core of the hurricane will pass well offshore of the coast of Florida today. The hurricane is forecast to approach the coast of North Carolina on Saturday. Irene is a large tropical cyclone. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 80 miles / 130 km from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 290 miles / 465 km.

-Tropical depression 10 continues moving west-northwestward over the eastern Atlantic about 585 mi / 940 km W of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands.

-Typhoon 14w (Nanmadol) was located approximately 620 nm south-southwest of Kadena Air Base.

-Tropical storm 15w (Talas) was located approximately 260 nm south-southwest of Iwo To.

Thousands flee US coast as hurricane nears - Thousands of people have fled the US east coast as it braces for Hurricane Irene, which is threatening up to 65 million people from the Carolinas to New England. Authorities from North Carolina to New York declared states of emergency and thousands of people were ordered to higher ground overnight as Irene packed winds of 185 kilometres per hour in its race toward the US mainland. "There's hardly any excuse for people not to know that there's a hurricane out there. People need to understand that their time will be running out to be prepared and be ready."
The hurricane is set to slam into North Carolina early Saturday local time before roaring toward New York City, accompanied by an "extremely dangerous" storm surge that could raise water levels by as much as 3.4 metres. Hurricane watches have been issued from North Carolina to New Jersey. The US President has declared an emergency in North Carolina and federal authorities say they have stored millions of meals and bottles of water for people who wind up in shelters.
Irene's projected path had it bringing misery to Washington, New York and Boston. Utility providers are preparing for the possibility of widespread and lengthy power outages. Millions of people could be affected by Irene because it is forecast to stay just offshore - and thus retain much of its power - as it moves up the coast.
The former chief of the National Hurricane Center called it one of his three WORST POSSIBLE SITUATIONS. "One of my greatest nightmares was having a major hurricane go up the whole northeast coast." The damage would probably climb into billions of dollars: "This is going to have an impact on the United States economy."
In North Carolina's coastal Dare County, where up to 180,000 people are believed to be present including summer holiday-makers, authorities warned that emergency personnel would not be able to reach anyone who defied the mandatory evacuation by Friday morning. "If you choose to stay, we can't issue a criminal citation, but you are leaving yourself wide open to extreme conditions." By 3am GMT Friday (1pm AEST), Irene had maximum winds of 185km/h and was centred about 785 kilometres south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It was travelling north-northwest at 22km/h. Centre forecasters said a strengthening of Irene was possible later Thursday and Friday.
In New York, the Mayor said skyscrapers would be safe but warned residents to prepare to move to higher ground. "If you have a car and live in a low lying area, park it on a hill. Move stuff upstairs." He authorised the evacuation of hospitals and other vulnerable institutions in the most low-lying areas of New York City, while neighbouring New Jersey ordered 750,000 people out of the remote Cape May area. The hurricane would be the second UNUSUAL scare in a week for the US east coast after a rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake on Tuesday rattled major cities including Washington. While Caribbean and Atlantic islands are accustomed to hurricanes, the northeastern United States usually experiences only the remnants of storms.
Earlier this week, Irene smashed through the Caribbean and then on Wednesday hit the Bahamas, where homes were destroyed, roads were flooded and power was cut off but there were no initial reports of casualties. Haiti, while not directly under Irene's eye, suffered from heavy rains dumped by the hurricane.
Two people died when they were swept away by raging waters in a ravine. The Dominican Republic reported three deaths including that of an 18-year-old pregnant woman, who was washed away in a river. One person was killed in Puerto Rico, where the storm became a hurricane on Monday. Puerto Rican authorities estimated damage at more than $US500 million ($480.22 million).
A large wave caused by Hurricane Irene washed eight people off a north jetty at Boynton Inlet, Florida, nearly causing one person to drown. One of the people swept off the jetty at around 5pm was taken to Delray Medical Center in a serious condition. The other seven victims suffered minor injuries.

'Mina' intensifies further; incoming cyclone monitored - Severe Tropical Storm Mina (Nanmadol) intensified anew early Thursday and may stay until at least Tuesday, even as state weather forecasters monitor the possible entry of a tropical depression just outside Philippine territory.

High chance of cyclone near Cape Verde Islands, Africa - An area of low pressure located 350 miles (563 km) southwest of the Cape Verde Islands has a high 90 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours.


Canadian farmers face effects of RECORD-BREAKING summer - Weather officials in Manitoba said this summer could go down as the driest one on record, posing serious challenges for farmers. Some farmers in the Interlake area say extreme shifts in weather this year have them wondering if they'll able to continue. The wet spring posed issues for many farmers, while the subsequent dry summer has added to troubles. Weather officials said this summer could go down as the driest one on record. "Certainly for agricultural producers now, this is the most stressful year for precipitation in our records, which go back to 1873." In Winnipeg, the previously driest summer on record was in 1961. So far this summer, the city has only had 84 millimetres of rain. The extremely dry conditions this summer extend as far south as Texas. "We do need some precipitation for crops that are still growing like soya beans, corn, and sunflowers to fill out and complete their development...they'll be harvested starting in late September into October."

Arctic sea routes open as ice melts - Two major Arctic shipping routes have opened as summer sea ice melts, European satellites have found. Both Canada's Northwest Passage and Russia's Northern Sea Route are open simultaneously.
This summer's melt could break the 2007 record for the smallest area of sea ice since the satellite era began in 1979. Shipping companies are already eyeing the benefits these routes may bring if they remain open regularly. The two lanes have been used by a number of small craft several times in recent years. But the Northern Sea Route has been free enough of ice this month for a succession of tankers carrying natural gas condensate from the northern port of Murmansk to sail along the Siberian coast en route for Thailand.
"They're often open at the same time in the sense that with some ingenuity you can get through them. "But this time they've really been open, with a proper Suez-size tanker going through the Northern Sea Route with a full cargo - that's a real step forward." A number of major shipping companies are looking to the opening of these routes to shorten journey times and make their businesses more efficient. But environmental groups are concerned that the progressive ice loss will lead to increased exploration for oil and gas.
The Arctic sea ice has been melting fast this year, and for a while it appeared set to break the 2007 record for the smallest minimum area in the satellite record. However, in recent weeks it has been running a narrow second to 2007. "The minimum ice extent is still three to four weeks away, and a lot depends on the weather conditions over the Arctic during those weeks. Whether we reach an absolute minimum or not, this year again confirms that we are in a new regime with substantially less summer ice than before. The last five summers are THE FIVE MINIMUM ICE EXTENT SUMMERS ON RECORD." The volume of sea ice continues to decline annually. The advent of summers where the two sea routes are routinely open is not far away. Some computer models forecast that the Arctic could be completely clear of summer sea ice within a decade, though others recently published say there may be high years and low years en route to the final disappearance. Canada and Russia are among the governments jockeying for position as new areas of the seabed open up for exploitation.


US on alert over tainted Mexican papayas - The Food and Drug Administration has issued an "import alert" after nearly 100 cases of salmonella in 23 states were linked to papayas imported from Mexico. Under the FDA alert, papayas from Mexico can be denied entry into the United States unless the importer proves they have been tested by an independent lab. An FDA analysis found a 15.6 per cent salmonella contamination rate over the last three months in papayas from 28 different companies that included nearly every major papaya producing region in Mexico. Mexico produces 11 per cent of the world's papayas and supplies 65 per cent of US papaya imports.