Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mt Fuji volcano (Japan): signs of volcanic unrest reported - Reports are appearing about unrest and signs of a possible awakening of Mt Fuji volcano in Japan. According to a report which includes an unclear photo of the area, a row of new craters, the largest 50 m in diameter, has appeared on the eastern flank of the volcano at 2200 m elevation. Steam was observed erupting from these vents.
The observation joins other signs suggesting a gradual reawakening: A swarm of earthquakes including 4 of magnitude 5 have occurred northeast of Mt Fuji on and after 28 January. An earlier 6.4M quake occurred under the volcano on 15 March 2011. The report also mentions increased activity from a fumarole vent at 1500 m elevation and hot spring areas at the eastern flank observed since 2003. These locations seem to be aligned geographically, and are probably connected. A spokesman from Ryukyu University is quoted to admit that there is an increased risk of and eruption on the eastern flank and that the status of the volcano should be closely monitored.

**A light heart lives long.**
William Shakespeare

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/18/12 -

2/17/12 -

Philippines - Negros quake death toll now 51; over 1700 aftershocks recorded. The death toll from a magnitude-6.9 quake that rattled Negros last Feb. 6 went up to 51 Saturday morning. At least 112 were hurt while 62 were missing, including 26 from Guihulngan City and 36 from La Libertad town. As of 8 p.m. Friday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology had detected 1,719 aftershocks, 104 of which were felt. The quake had affected 63,697 families or 319,155 people in 180 villages in nine towns and two cities in two provinces. Of these, 4,790 families or 23,490 people are being served in 74 evacuation centers. Damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges amoutned to P383.059 million. At least 6,306 houses were destroyed and 9,177 damaged. At least four quakes hit the Visayas area between midnight Friday and noon Saturday, with state seismologists warning of possible aftershocks from at
least one of the quakes.
Sinkhole stirs village still nervous on quake - Residents of a village expressed alarm over a sinkhole that formed after an explosion, reviving tension in a community that is still nervous following an intensity 6.9 earthquake recently. The hole was first discovered by a farm caretaker in Barangay Cambuang on Friday. It was initially the size of a frying pan. The caretaker didn’t pay much attention to the hole at first, but when he returned to look at it after having breakfast, he noticed the soil moving and cracks forming around the hole. An hour later, an explosion shattered the early morning silence of the village. He checked again and saw a hole with a diameter of about 10 meters. By noon, it grew to 12 meters. The next day, the hole had grown to about 20 meters in diameter and it appeared to be further increasing in size. Residents expressed alarm at the hole and speculated on how deep it was.
Some residents threw a coconut into the hole to check how deep it was judging from the sound of the coconut hitting bottom. They heard no sound. Its depth could be estimated by a 14-foot wooden electric post that the hole swallowed. “All my life, this is the first time I encountered this kind of unusual event." The area has been cordoned off while two policemen and two village watchmen tried to prevent people from getting near as the hole continued to expand. A spokesperson of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Central Visayas, said the occurrence was not unusual, saying sinkholes could also be found in Alcoy town and other parts of Cebu because of limestone formation. “It is just part of the natural depression of surface topography.' Sinkholes are common where the earth underneath is made of limestone, carbonate rock, salt beds or rocks that can be dissolved by ground water circulating through them. Spaces and caverns develop underground when the rock dissolves. If there is not enough support for the earth above the spaces, a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur. The intensity 6.9 quake last Feb. 6 caused ground tension cracks. Prolonged rains made the cracks bigger. Geologists will go back to the area on Monday to check.


Alaska - Cleveland Volcano's lava dome is growing, could blow soon. Satellite images show that dome has grown in the last week. A lava dome is growing at Cleveland Volcano as its current slow eruption continues, a sign that the restless Aleutian volcano could pop at any moment, the Alaska Volcano Observatory says. Satellite images show the lava dome has expanded from about 50 meters to 60 meters across in the past week. The hardening lava still only occupies a small part of the roughly 200-meter crater.
The volcano makes up the western half of Chuginadak Island about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. If Cleveland's eruption turns explosive - perhaps blasting ash up thousands of feet, into trans-Pacific flight paths - it could disable the engines of airplanes that fly through it. The explosiveness is characteristic of Alaska volcanoes. Lava extruding inside Cleveland Volcano is thick and pasty, "like peanut butter. The lava's so viscous, it doesn't flow like you're used to seeing in pictures of Hawaii, where it's fluid and runny. So it piles up and makes a round, dome-like lava flow." The molten rock flows out of vents inside the volcano's crater and piles up. When the dome grows so big that it covers those vents, gas builds up behind it. Then, when the pressure is high enough: ka-boom.
A similar explosive event in December mostly cleared a lava dome that had been growing since October. The brief explosion sent ash up to about 15,000 feet. The difficulty of monitoring Cleveland Volcano comes from its remoteness. Unlike many other Alaska volcanos, Cleveland has no seismometers on its flanks, so scientists cannot hear its inner rumblings. Instead, they rely on seismometers farther away, satellites that can sometimes be blocked by clouds, and lightning detectors that sense lightning in volcanic ash plumes already high in the air. Plans are in the works to maybe put sensors on Cleveland Volcano but "that's just in the talking stage now." Until then, the volcano could disrupt air travel with little warning. "There's a half-dozen major flight paths that go from Asia to North America and Europe that fly over Alaska airspace. So it does depend on which way the wind is blowing but there are a number of paths that are near it."

Indonesia - Climbers Warned as Indonesia Volcano Erupts Ash. Nature-loving tourists have been warned not to climb Mount Gamalama in North Maluku after the frequently active volcano started emitting ash again over the past week. The volcano, which covers the entire island of Ternate, is still very dangerous for anyone climbing its upper reaches. It was impossible to say whether the mini-eruptions would become more intense or subside. A severe eruption in early December destroyed more than 100 houses and left farmers devastated after ash smothered fruit trees and crops. The cost of that eruption was estimated at Rp 15 billion ($ 1.6 million).

Indonesia - Merapi volcano (Central Java): increased seismic activity could indicate the start of a new lava dome growth. Seismic activity has increased beneath Mount Merapi volcano in Central Java, Indonesia, in the last few days. The increase in so-called multiphase earthquakes is thought to indicate the beginning of the formation of a new lava dome.
A volcanologist from the Selo observation post on the north side of the volcano is quoted "there is movement in the magma chamber in the form of a new lava dome formation. But we do not know the emission point because from Selo it is not visible". It is planned to check the situation at the summit in the near future. "The status of Merapi still active normal."
Starting around 11 February, Mount Merapi showed increased seismic activity, especially in multi-phase (MP) earthquakes, which are believed to correspond to movements in the magma chamber and conduits. During the week of 29 January and 4 Feb 29, 18 such quakes were recorded, but that figure rose sharply during the following week, when about 100 were recorded. The peak occurred on 12 February, when 63 MP as well as 6 shallow volcanic earthquakes were recorded. On 13 February earthquake activity decreased to 34 MP quakes, 3 avalanche, and 9 shallow volcanic and tectonic quakes. On 14 February, there were 25 MP and 14 shallow volcanic quakes.
The increased activity of Mount Merapi is a normal phenomenon frequently seen at the volcano, and still within the range of normal fluctuations. The official alert level remains at 1 out of 4 (normal activity). People living on the slopes of Mount Merapi, particularly those living higher up the slopes and near the major drainage valley were encouraged to remain vigilant. A major hazard for these areas are floods and mud flows, particularly now in the rainy season.

Tinakula volcano (Solomon Islands) - new satellite image shows strong steaming and possible eruption. Tinakula volcano is probably erupting a recent satellite image published by NASA's Earth observatory shows. Tinakula is a small, volcanic, South Pacific island located about 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) northeast of Brisbane, Australia. The natural-color satellite image shows a plume of volcanic gas, possibly mixed with a little ash, rising above the island’s summit. On February 13th and 14th, 2012, NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer detected heat signatures on Tinakula, and a small plume was apparent in visible imagery. Over the past decade satellites have detected intermittent “thermal anomalies” that suggest eruptions have taken place, but eyewitness observations are infrequent.

In the Indian Ocean -
-Tropical cyclone 12s (Giovanna) was located approximately 430 nm south of Antananarivo, Madagascar.
-Tropical cyclone 13s was located approximately 1105 nm east of La Reunion.

Tropical depression One is forecast to strike Vietnam as a tropical storm at about 06:00 GMT on 19 February. The tropical depression is moving with winds of 39-61 kph in the East Sea near Vietnam's Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands and is likely to develop into a tropical storm.

Cyclone Giovanna killed 17 in Madagascar - Giovanna 'has affected 200,000 people' in Madagascar. Transport activities have also suffered in the deadly aftermath of the cyclone.
Rain-soaked Madagascar again threatened by Cyclone Giovanna - Rainfall data from NASA's TRMM satellite revealed that parts of Madagascar's east coast received over a foot (30 cm) of rainfall from Cyclone Giovanna's passage, and new satellite data shows Cyclone Giovanna re-strengthening and turning back toward southeastern Madagascar. Cyclone Giovanna's rainfallfell from February 8-15. The highest rainfall totals of over 250mm (~10 inches) fell in the coastal area east of Madagascar's capitol of Antananarivo. In that area people were flooded out of their homes and deaths have been reported. Giovanna then tracked across central Madagascar and entered the Mozambique Channel where the warm waters re-energized the storm. The forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center expect Giovanna to track over southern Madagascar over the weekend with gusty winds and heavy rainfall. Giovanna is expected to then dissipate over the southeastern part of the island by February 20.


Italy - Extreme Weather in Rome Damages Colosseum. Severe snow and cold in Rome have taken a toll on one of its architectural wonders, the Colosseum. The Colosseum had to shut its doors to tourists after bits of the massive structure crumbled and fell. The loosening of plaster masonry and stone was attributed to ice forming on the walls. The damage is a result of what is known as the "freeze-thaw cycle." The cold wave was called EXCEPTIONAL. "Maybe every 30 years it gets this cold, but it's VERY RARE." Most nights this month have been subfreezing in the city. Moreover, there have been two outbursts of snow that have left an accumulation of wet snow on parts of the Colosseum.

Lebanon hit by extreme weather conditions. Lebanon was hit with heavy snow and torrential rains across the country Friday, closing roads in Tannourine, Zahle and the Bekaa as the storm was expected to last throughout the weekend. Snow 1.5 meters deep covered Tannourine and Batroun, causing the Tannourine-Laqlouq road to be blocked. Two meters of snow also blocked the Tannourine-Hadath al-Gibbe road, leaving only the road connecting upper Tannourine to lower Tannourine open. Heavy rains Friday morning disrupted the local telecommunications networks and power lines in Tannourine.
In Zahle, east Lebanon, snowplows worked hard to clear the Dahr al-Baidar road, part of the main Beirut-Damascus road, while snow also blocked the main Zahle-Tarshish road. Meanwhile in the Bekaa, stormy weather hit Hasbaya and Arkoub, with snow covering Jabal al-Sheikh and the hills around Shebaa and Kfar Shouba. Heavy rains caused water levels to rise in the Hasbani and Wazzani rivers, damaging irrigation systems. Snow also blocked the main Shebaa-Bekaa road through the village of Ain Ata.
Wind speeds of around 100 kilometers per hour pounded the Lebanese coastal regions. A delegation of the country’s Higher Relief Committee visited Beit Younes in the Akkar district, following landslides in the village the previous day. A team of engineers and experts assessed the damage, and examined houses affected by the landslides. The Internal Security Forces issued a warning to citizens of potentially dangerous levels of ice, particularly in areas in Mount Lebanon.
In the capital, temperatures are expected to fall this weekend with a high of 11 degrees Celsius and low of 7 degrees Saturday. Sunday should see temperatures with a high of 13 degrees Celsius and a low of 5 degrees across the country. Winds are expected to stay strong over the weekend, with highs of 100 kilometers an hour during the day Sunday. Poor weather conditions have dominated since January with repeated spells of heavy rain blocking roads and destroying crops in various parts of the country.


QUIET SUN - Considering the fact that Solar Maximum is only about one year away, the sun is experiencing some remarkable spells of quiet. One of them is underway right now. There have been no significant flares for more than five days, and the sun's X-ray output has flatlined. What's going on? In fact, solar activity IS on the rise. For instance, an X-class solar flare on Jan. 27th triggered the strongest solar radiation storm since 2005. Also, auroras have been sighted recently as far south as Virginia and Oklahoma. The quiet interregnums are a sign that the current solar cycle, while active, is not quite as strong as other solar cycles that preceded it - like a mild hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico. According to this point of view, temporary spells of low activity are to be expected.
On the other hand, some researchers believe the quiet holds greater significance; it could foreshadow a major drop in solar activity. This is controversial, however, because forecasting the 11-year solar cycle is still an infant science. Indeed, surprises may be in the offing.