Tuesday, January 17, 2012

**Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.**
Oprah Winfrey

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
1/16/11 -

Rare Caterpillar-like Horizontal Earthquake Discovered - Imagine that, as you sit reading this story, your entire city suddenly snaps a foot to the south. That's what happened to the city of Kohat, Pakistan, in 1992. A magnitude-6.0 earthquake moved a 30-square-mile (80-square-kilometer) swath of land one foot (30 centimeters) horizontally in a split second, leveling buildings and killing more than 200 people. The area hadn't experienced many temblors before, making the earthquake an unusual occurrence. Now, 20 years later, geologists have used satellite and seismic data to track down the cause of that rare quake — an equally rare type of fault.
"The pattern we saw was absolutely a dead ringer for a horizontal fault. But here's the problem: How do you get a horizontal earthquake?" Most earthquakes occur at near-vertical faults, such as the strike-slip San Andreas Fault or the thrust fault that caused the 2011 Japan earthquake. The Kohat Plateau earthquake occurred on a horizontal fault — something that scientists have RARELY, IF EVER SEEN BEFORE. "The fault is like the contact layer between a carpet and the floor beneath it — perfectly horizontal." To understand what happened at Kohat, you need to picture a waterbed. If the waterbed is sitting on concrete, it's nearly impossible to push. But if you put the waterbed on a slippery surface — say, an ice rink — it becomes a little easier to move. It may crumple up at one end, and some patches may get a little stuck, but if you push slowly and surely, you can move the waterbed.
Now imagine that waterbed is the Kohat Plateau, a 3,800-square-mile (10,000-square-km) slab of earth that lies just southwest of the Himalayas. As the Eurasian plate pushes the plateau southward, it slides along (or creeps) on its own sort of ice rink, a lubricating layer of salt separating the plateau from the underlying layer of rock. Every once in a while, though, a patch of the plateau sticks against the bedrock below. And while the rest of the plateau slides southward, "the surrounding creep loads up around the one stuck patch, then boom! Earthquake." Because this type of earthquake is so unusual, researchers used interferometric synthetic aperture radar, a type of satellite data, to confirm their suspicions. This type of radar uses microwaves to map a section of the Earth's surface at different times (in this case, the images were taken nearly 20 years apart), and then compares the two maps to very accurately measure seismic deformation and movement in the area.
The Kohat Plateau is creeping south at a speed of about 1 to 2 millimeters per year. Over the course of about 200 years, patches of the plateau can build up enough stress to cause localized earthquakes, like the one in 1992. Over time, the plateau's movement is much like a caterpillar's crawl — a combination of slow gliding and sudden jerks. This type of earthquake will likely become more frequent in the region as the plateau slowly squeezes out its underlying layer of lubricant. Although this layer is likely salt, no one will know for sure until scientists drill below the plateau to take samples. But whatever it turns out to be, residents of the Kohat Plateau should hold on tight.

No current tropical storms.

Tropical Storm Dando Hits Mozambique - Tropical Depression Dando made landfall over the coast of Mozambique in southern Africa Monday. It made landfall at 4:00 a.m. EST (0900 UTC). Dando is the first storm to hit this part of Mozambique since the infamous Tropical Storm Domoina in 1984. Over the next 24 hours, Dando has the potential to drop substantial amounts of rain, with possible local rain totals between 4 to 6 inches (100 to 150 millimeters). Mozambique is bordered by Tanzania to the north, Zimbabwe to the west, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Swaziland and South Africa to the south.

Australia - Cyclone Heidi brings a world of water to Karajini National Park. The mass of water that Cyclone Heidi dumped on the Pilbara has rushed through Karajini National Park and changed the dry gorges overnight to rushing torrents of swirling brown water. Karijini has had around 230mm of rainfall in the past week. Following the recent rain many gorges and falls are flowing which never usually have water in them. Every year the wet reveals the stark contrast between the arid desert country above the gorges, and the cool lush ravines that plunge into the earth. These gorges carry many thousands of litres of water and can be very dangerous. (photos)


Record-Breaking Warmth, Precipitation, and Drought Highlight 2011 U.S. Weather - Lubbock, Wichita Falls, and Amarillo were the Texas cities that in 2010 had LESS RAINFALL THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME SINCE RECORDS BEGAN, and much of Texas remains in the throes of an extreme to exceptional drought, the worst categories.


La Nina events may make flu pandemics more likely, research suggests. US-based scientists found that the last four pandemics all occurred after La Nina events, which bring cool waters to the surface of the eastern Pacific. Flu-carrying birds may change migratory patterns during La Nina conditions. However, many other La Nina events have not seen novel flu strains spread around the world, they caution. So while the climatic phenomenon may make a pandemic more likely, they say, it is not sufficient on its own - and may not be necessary either.
La Nina is the cold cousin of El Nino - the two collectively making up the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). "Certainly ENSO affects weather and precipitation and humidity around the world. But the effects are very varied around the world - there's no coherent picture." Nevertheless, the last four pandemics - the Spanish Flu that began in 1918, the Asian Flu of 1957, the Hong Kong Flu of 1958 and the swine flu of 2009 - were all preceded by periods of La Nina conditions. What pandemics have in common is that they all feature novel strains of the virus to which people have not developed immunity. Typically these are created when two existing strains infecting an animal such as a bird or a pig exchange genetic material.
La Nina conditions emerge as a tongue of cold water (purple) in the eastern Pacific The link to La Nina events is not clear. But recent research has shown that some wild birds' patterns of flights and stopovers during migrations, or moulting times, differ between El Nino and La Nina years. "Our best guess is this brings together birds [in La Nina conditions] that don't otherwise mix, and that allows the genetic reassortment to take place." Yet the fact that many other La Nina periods have not been followed by a pandemic indicate that other factors must also be involved.
If the swine flu pandemic of 2009-10 was part of this pattern, the crossing of viral strains must have had something to do with birds as well as pigs. As wild migratory birds will sometimes visit farms and as domestic flocks of ducks or chickens often live alongside pigs, especially in developing countries, this is quite feasible.
The link is far from being firm enough that it could be used as a tool to forecast pandemics. But the monitoring of birds, pigs, people and the genetics of the influenza virus have all been stepped up in response to recent outbreaks of both swine flu and bird flu. And this should in time show whether the theory is correct. "Now we can look at viral gene flow in a number of birds, pigs and people - and we might be able to get something more statistically robust, to get a better sense of the mechanisms."