Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Extreme Weather Conditions Confuse Farmers in Zimbabwe - A trend has since been established whereby extreme weather conditions have become one of the biggest impediments in their planning. For 12 straight seasons, Zimbabwean farmers have walked a tight rope as extreme and unpredictable weather patterns played havoc with their efforts to profitably remain in the business or simply grow enough to sustain their families. The start of the 2011/12 agricultural season in October began with UNUSUALLY widespread moderate rainfall. October is traditionally known for extreme heat. Areas such as Marondera, Mutoko and Chipinge received as much as 38mm, 30mm and 29mm of rainfall respectively.
But all hell broke loose last week as very high temperatures swept across the country. RECORD TEMPERATURES were broken. Lupane broke its October 1962 record of 41 degrees Celsius by recording 42 degrees Celsius on the October 24. Rusape equalled its long standing record of 35 degrees Celsius. Plumtree surpassed its October 1962 record of 38 degrees Celsius by recording 39 degrees Celsius. Because of the extremely high temperatures, the Meteorological Services Department has urged farmers to work during the early mornings only to avoid heat stress.
The 2011/12 season will undoubtedly be another wakeup call for farmers, more so for the Zimbabwe government, which must resuscitate its irrigation schemes while creating new ones to avoid hunger in the event of rains failing. While the government is making steady progress in the rehabilitation and development of these irrigation projects under the 2011 Public Sector Investment Programme, a lot more still needs to be done. Lack of fiscal space has limited the government's capacity to intervene meaningfully towards supporting agriculture. Zimbabwe has many small and large dams with immense irrigation potential which include Manyuchi, the country's fourth largest in Masvingo and Zhovhe in Beitbridge that are lying idle in the middle of communities thirsty for irrigation water. Aware of the disaster awaiting farmers especially vulnerable rural households, a consortium of non-governmental organisations comprising the Catholic relief Services, CARE International and the Agricultural Cooperative Development International have joined hands to form Promoting Recovery in Zimbabwe (PRIZE), an organisation that seeks to reduce food insecurity for vulnerable people in Zimbabwe's eight districts. "Erratic weather patterns, low agricultural technologies and malnutrition have exacerbated food insecurity and poverty," the consortium believes. Among the many PRIZE interventions is the rehabilitation of small dams and irrigation schemes currently benefiting thousands of vulnerable households.

Traditional farm methods help climate adaptation
- Traditional agriculture methods could help protect food supplies and make agriculture more resilient to the effects of climate change, a report by the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said on Monday. Traditional knowledge, rather than modern methods, has helped indigenous people in countries like China, Kenya and Bolivia to cope with extreme weather and environmental change.
"Policies, subsidies, research and intellectual property rights promote a few modern commercial varieties and intensive agriculture at the expense of traditional crops and practices. This is perverse as it forces countries and communities to depend on an ever decreasing variety of crops and threatens with extinction the knowledge and biological diversity that form the foundations of resilience." Traditional methods include using local plants to control pests, choosing crop varieties which tolerate extreme conditions such as droughts and floods and planting a variety of crops to hedge bets against uncertain futures. Policymakers agree that agriculture needs to be adapted to cope with rising temperatures, variable rainfall and extreme weather events to ensure future food security. However, government policies have largely overlooked long-established agricultural practices in favour of intensifying production through modern methods, the report said.
Next month, governments will meet at a U.N. climate summit in Durban, South Africa, to work on securing a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and climate aid for developing countries. "They must have traditional knowledge firmly in their sights and begin discussing how to reform intellectual property rights in agriculture as a main concern."

**We can either have democracy in this country
or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,
but we cannot have both.**
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/31/11 -

Drilling Ship to Probe Fault Zone that Caused Fukushima Quake - The fast-tracked expedition will measure the fault's residual heat. After being tossed about and damaged by the tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, Japan's drilling ship the Chikyu has been given an especially fitting assignment: to drill into the fault zone and take temperature measurements near the epicentre of the magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake that caused the tsunami. It will be the first time that researchers have drilled into an underwater fault soon after a quake. The aim of the exercise is to solve a decades-old mystery about the part that friction plays in such an event. This should help scientists to understand why some faults are more likely than others to cause tsunamis — in this case, one that ultimately claimed more than 23,000 lives.
"It would be a great disservice to society if we did not learn as much as possible from the fault zone heated by this huge earthquake." The Chikyu will set sail in April and drill at a site south of the quake's epicentre. The scientific rationale for the expedition, officially called the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project, is to promote rapid-response drilling through fault lines as soon as possible after an earthquake in which the ground slips by more than one metre. The Tohoku event SET A NEW RECORD FOR THE GREATEST AMOUNT OF SLIPPAGE EVER OBSERVED — a whopping 50 meters — making it an ideal target. "It's a fundamental issue in seismology right now: how do you get rock to slip tens of metres?" Researchers think that an important part of the answer is that resistance between the plates of rock, sand and water in a fault line drops significantly during a quake — because of rock melting or increased water pressure, for example — but no one has been able to measure this effect properly. Because friction is dissipated as heat, precise temperature data should fill a crucial knowledge gap.
Researchers have attempted to monitor the underground temperature after an on-land earthquake on three previous occasions — after the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan, the 1999 Chi Chi quake in Taiwan and the 2008 Wenchuan quake in Sichuan Province, China. But these projects produced only a few temperature readings between them, and found only tiny temperature increases, or nothing at all — perhaps because the temperature rise was too small to see, or because of imperfect monitoring techniques. "The recurring theme is that the faults tend to be colder than they should be." A larger slip event provides a better chance of tracking the expected temperature increase of up to 0.5°C. "We need to do this now, and do it fast, and do it correctly."
The Chikyu will drill down 1 kilometer through the fault, and drop a string of temperature sensors down the hole. By tracking temperatures for one to three years — much longer than has been attempted before — researchers should be able to calculate the total amount of heat that was generated by the quake. That will provide them with the resistance forces felt in the fault during the slip, filling in a blank in models of earthquake dynamics. "This is a key missing ingredient."
Completing the drilling won't be easy. At the proposed site, the Tohoku fault lies under 7 kilometers of water and some 700 meters of Earth's crust, so a huge drill string will be needed. Previously, only a tiny 15-meter core has ever been extracted from beneath water of that depth; most cores are taken from beneath 6 kilometers of water or less. In addition to temperature measurements, the project will also examine the sediments pulled up in the core. Certain sediment textures, such as ball-bearing-like particles of clay, might be associated with large-slip earthquakes. Identifying such features should help scientists to forecast the slip potential of other faults. The chance to collect precious information from the Tohoku event represents "an opportunity, maybe even a responsibility." Almost all of the damage caused by the quake was done by the tsunami. "What we really want to understand is what caused that."


Red Alert For Two Volcanoes in Chile - The Chilean authorities are keeping the red alert in the south of the country due to the Hudson volcano's eruptive activity and also from the volcanic complex of Puyehue Cordon Caulle. Although the Hudson, located in Aysen region, registered a minor eruption, there is no magma movement inside the massive volcano. The director of the National Geology and Mining Service said that the monitoring equipment permits the understanding of what happens in and out of the volcano. "We know how it is behaving." Hudson's last major eruption took place between Aug 8 and Dec 29, 1991.
The same applies to the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle with a flow volume of ash emission since last June. The main problem for aircraft is not only visibility due to the ash presence in the air, but also the abrasive effect it has on the fuselage of the aircraft and engine overheating that may come to a halt in midair. In the last week there were canceled several flights in southern Chile by the volcanic ash plume coming from the mentioned volcanic complex. The day before there was an increase in the precipitation of particulate material. The Puyehue-Cordon Caulle is located in the Andes, about 900 kilometers south of Santiago, between the regions of Los Rios and Los Lagos. Its previous eruption was in 1960, after the mega-quake of 9.5 degrees in Valdivia city, considered the greatest in the history of mankind.
All along the Chilean Andes there are around 3, 000 volcanoes and 80 of them are active, of which, according to experts, half could erupt in the near future. Among the most explosive there are the Puyehue and the Hudson also the Chillan, Antuco, Villarrica, Llaima and Osorno. The South American country has the 15 percent of all the active volcanoes in the world.

No current tropical storms.


US northeast faces days without power - Hundreds of thousands across the northeastern US are facing days without heat or lights after the FREAK October snowstorm.