Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Radioactive contamination from the Fukushima power plant disaster has been detected as far as almost 643km off Japan in the Pacific Ocean, with water showing readings of up to 1000 times more than prior levels. "We're not over the hump" yet in terms of radioactive contamination of the ocean because of continued leakage from the plant.
But the results for the substance cesium-137 are far below the levels that are generally considered harmful, either to marine animals or people who eat seafood. The results are for water samples taken in June, about three months after the power plant disaster. In addition to thousands of water samples, researchers also sampled fish and plankton and found cesium-137 levels well below the legal health limit. They sampled water from about 32km to about 643km off the coast east of the Fukushima plant. Concentrations of cesium-137 throughout that range were 10 to 1000 times normal, but they were about one-tenth the levels generally considered harmful. Cesium-137 wasn't the only radioactive substance released from the plant, but it's of particular concern because of its long persistence in the environment. Its half-life is 30 years. The highest readings last June were not always from locations closest to the Fukushima plant. That's because swirling ocean currents formed concentrations of the material. Most of the cesium-137 detected probably entered the ocean from water discharges, rather than atmospheric fallout.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said the findings were not surprising, given the vastness of the ocean and its ability to absorb and dilute materials. "This is what we predicted." The water's cesium-137 concentration has been so diluted that just 32km offshore, "if it was not seawater, you could drink it without any problems. This is good news." Scientists expect levels to continue to decrease over time. "We still don't have a full picture, but we can expect the situation will not become worse."

**Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.
Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.**
George Washington

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/21/12 -

4.0 Missouri quake felt in 9 states. The quake was at a depth of 3.1 miles. It was felt in 9 states, with the furthest location from the epicenter being New Bern, North Carolina, more than 800 miles to the east. Several people in five states - Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee - felt the quake, along with scattered people in four others, as far away as North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and Georgia.
Residents got the early morning jolt Tuesday after an earthquake causing minor damage and a big stir in the town of East Prairie, near the quake's epicenter. “It sounded like a semi-truck and it rattled my windows and it rattled my house...We're no strangers to quakes, but this one was different. We had one four years ago and that one rolled. This one was straight underneath us and lasted for 30 seconds or so. It reminded you of lightning."
A U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist said the rural farming community of East Prairie is known for its seismic activity. "It's a normal event that occurs from time to time. It happens every two years or so. They have many that are small but no one can really feel them. Once in a while you will get one like this one that is wider and stronger." The East Prairie City Administrator heard reports of cracks in sidewalks and walls, some broken windows, and minor household damage such as rattled shelves and things falling from cabinets.


Series of tremors and quakes rock Iceland volcano Katla - Iceland's huge volcano Katla is stirring into life after tell-tale signs of the potential for an eruption were monitored by observers. A harmonic tremor has been recorded for two days and small earthquakes were confirmed at the volcano by the Icelandic Met Office Tuesday morning. It is HIGHLY UNUSUAL for an eruption in Iceland to occur in the middle of winter but the early indications show Katla is building up power. Experts are unclear as to whether it is water or magma that is causing this week's sudden increase in activity and the seismic recordings are currently lower than when the volcano first showed signs of a minor eruption last July. In September, Katla again stirred into life with a harmonic tremor and earthquakes in the volcano's caldera - its magma chamber. Katla, which has not experienced a significant eruption for 93 years, is the second largest volcano on Iceland and the consequences of a major eruption will be felt across Europe. In 2010, the country's president warned "the time for Katla to erupt is coming close, Iceland has prepared and it is high time for European governments and airline authorities all over Europe and the world to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption".
It is believed Katla has the potential to be much stronger and more disruptive than the last two Icelandic volcanic eruptions that caused chaos across Europe's air space, grounding flights and closing airports. Katla is much larger than its neighbouring Eyjafjallajokull – which erupted in 2010 - with a magma chamber about 10 times the size. Volcanologists warn that if Katla does erupt, the combination of the magma and the large ice sheet covering the volcano could lead to explosive activity and an ash plume for weeks, if not months.

Philippines - There is no danger of a volcanic eruption from the cracks in Kanlaon Volcano caused by the magnitude 6.9 earthquake that hit Negros Island, an expert from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology says.

In the Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone 13s (Hilwa) was located approximately 350 nm east of Port Louis, Mauritius.


Trapped Dalmatian pelicans hand-fed in frozen Caspian Sea - Authorities in the southern Russian province of Dagestan are trying to save hundreds of rare Dalmatian pelicans trapped by UNUSUALLY COLD weather. The birds migrated to the area near the city of Makhachkala last week. About 20 birds have already died of hunger after the Caspian Sea froze over. Around 1,400 Dalmatian pelicans, the world's largest variety of pelican, are thought to live in southern Russia. Hundreds of kilograms of fish have been bought every day by Dagestan's Nature Protection Ministry for the pelicans. The birds are being fed locally-bought sprats while fishing in the Caspian is impossible. Local residents have been volunteering to help authorities in their efforts to feed the birds. But the authorities at the shipyard where the birds have been trapped at first refused the public entry. "We did not let them in for the sake of the pelicans,'' the chief guard said, citing concerns that some residents had brought bread and other foods unsuitable for pelicans. .


Canada - Extreme weather hit national parks hard in 2011. An UNPRECEDENTED WAVE OF SEVERE WEATHER that hammered national parks and historic sites left Ottawa with a $14.8 million repair bill in 2011. Storms, floods and hurricanes buried parts of parks under piles of debris and damaged visitor centres.

The Canadian government has been accused of "muzzling" its scientists. - Speakers at a major science meeting being held in Canada said communication of vital research on health and environment issues is being suppressed. "The Prime Minister is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won't be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship. I suspect the federal government would prefer that its scientists don't discuss research that points out just how serious the climate change challenge is."
The Canadian government recently withdrew from the Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The allegation of "muzzling" came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008. The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories. Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview.
The protocol has been described as "Orwellian". The protocol states: "Just as we have one department we should have one voice. Interviews sometimes present surprises to ministers and senior management. Media relations will work with staff on how best to deal with the call (an interview request from a journalist). This should include asking the programme expert to respond with approved lines." Information is so tightly controlled that the public is "left in the dark. The only information they are given is that which the government wants, which will then allow a supporting of a particular agenda."
"The more controversial the story, the less likely you are to talk to the scientists. They (government media relations staff) just stonewall. If they don't like the question you don't get an answer." Several examples were cited of the "muzzling" of scientists by the government. Journalists across Canada are finding it "harder and harder" to get access to government scientists. When she requests an interview, she has to enter into prolonged email correspondence to speak to a scientist she knows is ready and willing to be interviewed, often to be declined or offered another scientist she does not want to interview. "It's so hard to get hold of scientists that a lot of my colleagues have given up." Journalists were denied access to scientists working for the government agency Health Canada last year, when there was concern about radiation levels reaching the country's western coast from Japan following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Ultimately, journalists obtained the information they sought from European agencies. Interview requests move up an "increasingly thick layer of media managers, media strategists, deputy ministers, then go up to the Privy Council Office, which decides 'yes' or 'no'". "The government has never explained what the process is. They just imposed these changes and they expected us to sit back and take it." The media protocol is being used by the Canadian government to "instruct scientists to deliver a certain message, thereby taking the heat out of controversial topics. You can't have an informed discussion if the science isn't allowed to be communicated. Public relations message number one is that you have to set the conversation. You don't want to have a conversation on someone else's terms. And this is now being applied to science on discussions about oil sands, climate and salmon."

Communities around the world now have access to a free weather information system that will help avert major disasters by providing warnings of impending extreme weather events. The system, implemented by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), will also assist in water management, food security, and health issues. The WMO Information System (WIS), will make accessible a number of meteorological observations and other data to a wide variety of agencies, communities and other stakeholders.
“With WIS, emergency response teams can register to receive warnings, and once warnings of impending extreme events are issued, they can register for relevant weather, water, and climate information to be sent to them automatically to help with their planning.” Just over a year ago, there were scales that measured hurricanes’ power and air quality, but none for floods, droughts, or heatwaves. Because of global warming, such droughts and floods are expected to become more frequent, as well.
The new system will be the first all-inclusive weather information source, stemming from data all over the globe. “The WMO Information System is the pillar of our strategy for managing and moving weather, climate, and water information in the 21st century. It will reduce the costs of information exchange incurred by national meteorological and hydrological services and maximize exploitation of advances in communications technology … it will allow users outside the meteorological community to have free access to this information for the first time.”
The global information system centers that have been approved by WMO’s governing World Meteorological Congress include Beijing, China; Tokyo, Japan; and Offenbach, Germany. These three have been running in pre-operational mode since the middle of 2011 and are now fully operational. The WIS is an expansion of the Global Telecommunication System of the World Weather Watch (WWW), in use since 1963. The Fourth World Meteorological Congress approved the concept of WWW, which is the basis of the WMO programs. It combines observing systems, telecommunication facilities, data-processing, and forecasting centers.
The WMO is “a major contribution towards life-saving efforts at community level,” said the UN special representative for Disaster Risk Reduction. “This is a significant boost for disaster risk reduction and will have many practical benefits for communities which suffer from weather-related disasters. For the first time, national disaster management offices and other responders will have free and direct access in real-time to weather observations and forecasts including tsunami alerts, tropical cyclone and storm warnings. Time and information save lives and this will make early warning systems more effective.”