Central America has been stricken by torrential rains since last week after the succession of five hurricanes and tropical storms. El Salvador declared a state of emergency with more than 30 people killed by floods and mudslides. The government ordered the evacuation of the hardest hit areas. As a result, 45,000 people have taken refuge in 558 shelters across the country. The Government of El Salvador said the priority is to meet the needs of these displaced populations. The most affected departments are Usulután and Ahuachapán. The affected communities in Usulután are totally isolated due to the collapse of roads and floods. Nicaragua has also declared a state of emergency with 25,000 people affected by the floods. Rains are expected to continue in Central America due to the normal rain season; thus the water level is still increasing.
Flooding Crisis in El Salvador: Thousands Displaced as Levees Break - A tropical depression in the Pacific, coupled with a weather front stemming from Hurricane Jova in the Atlantic, converged on El Salvador this weekend to cause what appears to be THE LARGEST DISASTER IN A GENERATION. As of Thursday morning, the region had seen over 1.2 meters [4 feet] of rainfall accumulate over a seven day period, far eclipsing the historic impact of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 which saw the accumulation of 0.86 meters of rain.
On Saturday, October 15, the President of El Salvador declared a state of emergency across the nation, with special attention to coastal areas like the Lower Lempa River Basin, located in the state of Usulutan’s Jiquilisco municipality. Approximately 40 villages were completely flooded out in that region. Dozens of communities were cut off from contact for up to 48 hours as roads were completely washed away. For the last four days, community groups have been working with local and federal authorities to reach isolated communities and evacuate everyone effectively. In the Jiquilisco area, over 7,000 people are currently staying in schools, community centers and other makeshift shelters. Community organizations have been helping coordinate relief efforts as the government’s resources have been slow to arrive.
Government officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Public Works have begun to assess the damage along 17 kilometers of levee systems along the Lempa and San Miguel Rivers. Foreign aid has begun to trickle into the country, and the World Bank has already pledged $25 million to the national efforts. Civil protection authorities are currently estimating the cost of response at nearly $900,000, and the Ministry of Agriculture has assessed CROP LOSS AT 40% NATIONWIDE.
Thanks to early warning systems, local communities were able to initiate evacuations two days before the levees broke, saving thousands of lives. To date, no deaths have been reported in the areas with early warning systems. There is concern that a lack of needed supplies and overcrowding at the shelters could potentially lead to a health crisis. Communities will also face major reconstruction after the flooding subsides. Initial assessments already identify millions of dollars in losses to crops and livestock due to the flooding.
LARGEST QUAKES -
This morning -
5.1 BANDA SEA
5.1 JUJUY, ARGENTINA
5.0 GUJARAT, INDIA
5.0 WEST OF MACQUARIE ISLAND
CALIFORNIA - Two earthquakes hit Berkeley in less than six hours. The first earthquake hit at 2:41 p.m and as 4.0 in magnitude. The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported that a 4.2 magnitude quake had hit near Berkeley Thursday night about 8:15 p.m., but that was quickly downgraded to 3.9. The second quake, which was one mile east of Berkeley and five miles north-northwest of Oakland, prompted a flurry of Twitter earthquake messages. There were reports of shaking, but no reports of damage. The two quakes occurred on the day that millions of people participated in The Great California shakeout earthquake preparedness drills.
An underwater volcano bursting with glowing lava bubbles — the DEEPEST ACTIVE SUBMARINE ERUPTION SEEN TO DATE — is shedding light on how volcanism can impact deep-sea life and reshape the face of the planet. Submarine eruptions account for about three-quarters of all of Earth's volcanism, but the overlying ocean and the sheer vastness of the seafloor makes detecting and observing them difficult. The only active submarine eruptions that scientists had seen and analyzed until now were at the volcano NW Rota-1, near the island of Guam in the western Pacific.
Now researchers have witnessed the deepest active submarine eruption yet. The volcano in question, West Mata, lies near the islands of Fiji in the southwestern Pacific in the Lau Basin. Here, the rate of subduction — the process in which one massive tectonic plate dives under another, typically forming chains of volcanoes — is the highest on Earth, and the region hosts ample signs of recent submarine volcanism. Scientists discovered West Mata in 2008. Two explosive eruptions were seen in the following year there, both occurring at a depth of approximately 3,900 feet (1,200 meters). The nearly continuous eruptions generated spectacular incandescent gas-filled bubbles of lava up to 3 feet (1 m) wide. Gas flowing through the glowing lava could sometimes look flame-like in appearance. "It was absolutely stunning and exciting, something we'd never seen on the seafloor before."
The rich soup of chemicals these eruptions spew out helps fuel communities of deep sea organisms at West Mata. For instance, the researchers witnessed shrimp colonies grazing on mats of microbes on the rocks. Deep-sea volcanism such as this might have nurtured the first life billions of years ago — "we might see the same ingredients here as the ones used to make the first organic molecules on Earth." This submarine eruption is about 2,200 feet (700 m) deeper than NW Rota-1. This was deeper than scientists had expected to see explosive eruptions. Water pressure goes up the further down you go, "so as pressure goes up, the ability of gas as it comes out of magma to cause explosions is diminished, and the thought was that you wouldn't get explosive eruptions below about 1,000 meters (3,300 feet)."
Eruptions at centers of ocean floor spreading — where the majority of eruptions on Earth happen — generally seem to occur in relatively short episodes lasting hours to months, but West Mata appears to have erupted near continuously since it was first observed in 2008. This might be because magma is focused there, instead of being spread across many volcanoes at once. "However, this is a question that we don't currently know the answer to." The volcano is spewing out boninite, a kind of water-rich LAVA NEVER BEFORE SEEN, newly made and hitherto only unearthed in ancient deposits. Boninite is always linked with subduction zones, and these pristine samples could help yield new clues about subduction, especially its early stages. Subduction plays a key role in shaping the face of the planet by consuming and recycling material from the oceanic plates. (photos)
TROPICAL STORMS -
No current tropical storms.
SEVERE RAIN STORMS, FLOODING, LANDSLIDES -
THAILAND - Bangkok 'impossible to protect' from floods. The Thai government says it will be impossible to protect all of the capital from flooding because of a build-up of water to the north. Sluice gates will be opened to allow a controlled release of water through parts of Bangkok. Describing the flooding as A "NATIONAL CRISIS", officials were doing all they could to solve the problem.
Over 320 people have died in the floods across the country since July. Central Bangkok is protected by flood barriers which have been reinforced by troops in recent days. But the run-off from severe flooding in central parts of the country has built up to the north of the capital, and several northern suburbs are already under water. On Wednesday, officials urged residents in seven Bangkok districts to move their possessions to higher ground in preparation for possible flooding. For days the government has assured an anxious public that Bangkok would be spared. Now it has had to admit its strategy of trying to divert the water either side of the city is failing. Residents in north-eastern suburbs have already been put on alert. The new idea is to try to relieve the pressure by opening sluice gates along the capital's network of canals and allowing the floodwater to flow. But that could put other parts of Bangkok at risk.
The human and economic cost of what is now being called a national crisis is mounting by the day. Every way of slowing the water entering the city has been tried. "We cannot block the water forever. We need areas that water can be drained through so water can flow out to the sea." The problems have been exacerbated by high tides, forcing water back up swollen rivers. "Flood waters are coming from every direction and we cannot control them because it's a huge amount of water. This problem is very overwhelming. It's a national crisis."
The government will work out which parts of the city to send the floodwaters through. The eastern districts were most likely to be hit. Many in Thailand say there has been unclear or conflicting information about the disaster. Many say that mixed messages from the government led to confusion over the real level of threat to Bangkok, which some officials had suggested would be spared.
THAILAND'S WORST FLOODS IN DECADES have been triggered by heavy monsoon rain that began in July. More than one third of the country's provinces have been inundated. Some nine million people have been affected over the THREE-MONTH PERIOD, with northern and central areas badly hit in the early stages. Manufacturing has been hit because several large industrial estates have been forced to close. About 1,000 factories have had to shut. On Thursday, the central bank said the damage to industry amounted to over 100bn baht ($3.3bn; £2.1bn). Meanwhile, rice traders have said that some 3.5m tonnes of paddy have been damaged by the floods. Thailand is the world's biggest rice exporter. Bangkok accounts for some 41% of Thailand's Gross Domestic Product. (video, photos, map)
EXTREME HEAT & DROUGHT / WILDFIRES / CLIMATE CHANGE -
Global warming 'confirmed' by independent study - The Earth's surface really is getting warmer, a new analysis by a US scientific group set up in the wake of the "Climategate" affair has concluded. The Berkeley Earth Project has used new methods and some new data, but finds the same warming trend seen by groups such as the UK Met Office and Nasa. The project received funds from sources that back organisations lobbying against action on climate change. "Climategate", in 2009, involved claims global warming had been exaggerated. Emails of University of East Anglia climate scientists were hacked, posted online and used by critics to allege manipulation of climate change data. The Berkeley group says it has also found evidence that changing sea temperatures in the north Atlantic may be a major reason why the Earth's average temperature varies globally from year to year.
Funding came from a number of sources, including charitable foundations maintained by the Koch brothers, the billionaire US industrialists, who have also donated large sums to organisations lobbying against acceptance of man-made global warming. "We were concerned that the climate scientists were not putting all their data into the public domain, whether using Freedom of Information rules or anything else. Science should be open, and data should be open, as a matter of principle." The group's work also examined claims from "sceptical" bloggers that temperature data from weather stations did not show a true global warming trend.
The claim was that many stations have registered warming because they are located in or near cities, and those cities have been growing - the urban heat island effect. The Berkeley group found about 40,000 weather stations around the world whose output has been recorded and stored in digital form. It developed a new way of analysing the data to plot the global temperature trend over land since 1800.
What came out was a graph remarkably similar to those produced by the world's three most important and established groups, whose work had been decried as unreliable and shoddy in climate sceptic circles. Two of those three records are maintained in the US, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa). The third is a collaboration between the UK Met Office and UEA's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), from which the e-mails that formed the basis of the "Climategate" furor were hacked two years ago. "Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK. This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions."
Since the 1950s, the average temperature over land has increased by 1C, the group found. They also report that although the urban heat island effect is real - which is well-established - it is not behind the warming registered by the majority of weather stations around the world. They also showed that in the US, weather stations rated as "high quality" by Noaa showed the same warming trend as those rated as "low quality".
"So-called 'sceptics' should now drop their thoroughly discredited claims that the increase in global average temperature could be attributed to the impact of growing cities. More broadly, this study also proves once again how false it was for 'sceptics' to allege that the e-mails hacked from UEA proved that the CRU land temperature record had been doctored. It is now time for an apology from all those, including US presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who have made false claims that the evidence for global warming has been faked by climate scientists."
The Berkeley group does depart from the "orthodox" picture of climate science in its depiction of short-term variability in the global temperature. The El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is generally thought to be the main reason for inter-annual warming or cooling. But by the Berkeley team's analysis, the global temperature correlates more closely with the state of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) index - a measure of sea surface temperature in the north Atlantic. There are theories suggesting that the AMO index is in turn driven by fluctuations in the north Atlantic current commonly called the Gulf Stream. The team suggests it is worth investigating whether the long-term AMO cycles, which are thought to last 65-70 years, may play a part in the temperature rise, fall and rise again seen during the 20th Century. But they emphasise that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) driven by greenhouse gas emissions is very much in their picture. "Had we found no global warming, then that would have ruled out AGW. Had we found half as much, it would have suggested that prior estimates [of AGW] were too large; if we had found more warming, it would have raised the question of whether prior estimates were too low. But we didn't; we found that the prior rise was confirmed. That means that we do not directly affect prior estimates." The team next plans to look at ocean temperatures, in order to construct a truly global dataset.
Climate Skeptics Stay Unswayed - The new study designed to address critiques of climate science by skeptics has confirmed that “global warming is real” and that the world’s average land temperature has risen by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the mid-1950s. The findings, released on Thursday by the group of scientists and statisticians known as the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, were welcomed by climate scientists and advocates of climate policy action, who had hoped that skeptics would finally have to cry uncle. At least one of those skeptics had written in March on his climate-themed blog, Watts Up With That, “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.” But neither he nor other longtime critics of climate science seemed satisfied with the report. They contend that the study’s methodology was flawed because it examined data over a 60-year period instead of the 30-year one that was the basis for some research and some peer-reviewed studies. The new report has not yet been peer-reviewed.
HEALTH THREATS -
RECALLS & ALERTS:
-Fair Oaks Dairy Products issued a voluntary recall of blue cheese produced under the Fair Oaks Royal Blue Cheese label because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
-Taylor Farms Retail Inc. is initiating a voluntary, precautionary recall of 3,265 cases of various salad blends with the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.
-River Ranch Fresh Foods, LLC of Salinas, CA is initiating a voluntary recall of 2,154 cases of various bagged salad products due to the potential of being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
-Osamu Corporation of Gardena, CA is recalling up to 1,800 cases of frozen ground tuna because the FDA found decomposition in several samples of the product and also found elevated histamine levels.