Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sorry for the lack of updates the last two days - a little under the weather.

Extreme Weather is the New Normal - Canada and much of the United States experienced summer temperatures during winter this year, confirming the findings of a new report on extreme weather. For two weeks this March most of North America baked under extraordinarily warm temperatures that melted all the snow and ice and BROKE 150-year-old TEMPERATURE RECORDS BY LARGE MARGINS. Last year the U.S. endured 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters including flooding, hurricanes and tornados.
The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released Mar. 28, provides solid evidence that record-breaking weather events are increasing in number and becoming more extreme. Since 1950 there have been many more heat waves and record warm temperatures than in previous decades.
This will only increase in future decades, as will heavier rainfall events in tropical regions and the high latitudes.
The hottest day that occurs once in 20 years is likely to become a one-in-two year event by the end of the century, except in the high latitudes of the Northern hemisphere, where it is likely to happen once every five years. The average tropical cyclone maximum wind speed is likely to increase, but the global frequency of tropical cyclones is likely to decrease or remain unchanged. The duration and intensity of droughts will increase in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, central Europe, central North America, Central America and Mexico, northeast Brazil, and southern Africa. Climate change-driven sea level rise combined with increases in extreme weather will make many places uninhabitable by the end of the century. Places that are already struggling with these problems, such as some small island states and coastal cities like Mumbai, may be amongst those that will be abandoned in coming decades.
Additional enormous amounts of heat and moisture now trapped in the atmosphere are the potent fuel for extreme events. It makes little sense to debate whether individual storms or events were caused by climate change when the entire global weather system is being impacted. "The main message from the report is that we know enough to make good decisions about managing the risks of climate-related disasters. Sometimes we take advantage of this knowledge, but many times we do not."
Guatemala and Colombia were amongst the worst hit by extreme storms and flooding in 2010, according to the Global Climate Risk Index. In fact, those countries suffered more than Russia, where a much-publicised heat wave killed an estimated 50,000 people. Between 1991 and 2010, the top ten countries hardest hit by weather extremes in terms of damages and lives lost were all developing countries in the global South, with Bangladesh, Burma and Honduras at the top of the list. "There is no question that extreme events and damages have been increasing. And it is not because there is simply more infrastructure to be damaged."
Countries are becoming more aware of the risks of extreme weather but few are taking measures to cope, despite the fact that it is far cheaper to prepare than to recover. It is difficult to allocate precious state or donor funding for a weather event that might not happen for many years. However, a country like Honduras, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and other lesser storms and rainfall events that followed, has never recovered. In contrast, Bangladesh has been able to invest heavily in prevention and has suffered far less damage in recent years. The report recommends countries and regions take "low regrets" measures, which require modest or moderate investments to reduce vulnerability to climate change risks. These include systems that warn people of impending disasters, changes in land use planning and ecosystem management. The report also recommends improvements in health surveillance, water supplies and drainage systems, as well as development and enforcement of building codes.

**Forgive yourself for your faults and your mistakes and move on.**
Les Brown

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
4/4/12 -

4/3/12 -

4/2/12 -

6.0 Earthquake shook Mexico, no major damage reported - Mexico was shaken Monday afternoon by a strong apparent aftershock from a powerful earthquake late last month. Office towers rocked back and forth for several seconds in the center of Mexico City, prompting people to stream out of their offices onto the streets. The epicenter was in southern Mexico near the border of Guerrero and Oaxaca states, very close to the epicenter of the strong quake nearly two weeks ago. At least two people died as a result of that quake.


Wisconsin - Clintonville releases 'booms' audio. One of the booms has finally been captured on a recorder. It is from March 24 -- just before 4 am. The USGS created a graph to mimic the audio recording, showing it reflected that Clintonville was having small earthquakes. The recording tells more about the location of the earthquakes within the earth. "It sounds like for all the world like somebody hitting a 55-gallon drum. To me, indicates we're talking something very close to the surface, because if it was deep the sound would be muffled." Still, it leaves a question unanswered. "We don't know specifically what the mechanism is that's making these sounds." (Boom recording - best with headphones)

Baraboo, Wisconsin - It’s unclear what caused two separate instances in which flashes of light were followed by thunderous booms in Baraboo early Sunday. “We don’t know if we have Clintonville going on here or what,” said the Baraboo Police Chief, referring to the city west of Green Bay where residents have heard multiple booms in recent weeks. Baraboo city officials may now have their own booms to investigate.
A resident on Sauk Avenue called 911 to report a loud boom Sunday around 1 a.m. That prompted more than 30 comments on the Baraboo Scanner page on Facebook — which posts information about calls to public service agencies — from other residents who heard the same thing. Some reported they saw a flash before the boom. About 45 minutes later, residents throughout the city called authorities to report a second flash and boom. A Baraboo police officer witnessed the first incident while parked on the 800 block of Eighth Street. “I observed a large flash of light followed by a ‘boom. I advised dispatch of this information and my belief that it was possibly a transformer.” However, Sauk County Sheriff’s Department dispatchers contacted Alliant Energy, and reported the company knew of no power outages in the Baraboo area.
Some Facebook users initially speculated thunder and lightning were the culprits. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. “There doesn’t appear to have been any t-storms in that area Sunday morning,” a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “I can’t think of anything else (weather-related) that would lead to a flash.” The Baraboo booms seem different from those reported in Clintonville because they were preceded by flashes of light.


On Saturday, Japan’s Cabinet Office chose to announce new predictions for earthquakes and tsunamis for which Japanese citizens “should make preparations.” From the shocking scale of death and devastation which the predictions intimate, however, the only “preparations” that would be practical, or even possible, would be life insurance and tombstones.
The government’s Central Disaster Management Council duly presented data and graphics predicting a tsunami of 10 meters or higher could strike 11 prefectures, including Tokyo, and an earthquake with an intensity of 7 — the highest level on the Japanese seismic scale — in the event of a “simultaneous triple quake” along the Nankai Trough. The “triple quake” refers to quakes in three sections of the trough, Tokai, Tonankai, and Nankai. The entire trough stretches from Suruga Bay along areas off Shikoku and Kyushu.
The research teams simulations, revised during the past year, show that triple, simultaneous quakes along the Nankai Trough could produce a tsunami as high as 34.4 meters (112 feet) in Kuroshiro, Kochi Prefecture, and tsunamis of at least 10 meters in 90 municipalities in the 11 prefectures. These heights are twice or three times higher than previously forecast. About 69,000 square kilometers in 687 municipalities in 24 prefectures would be affected by a level 6 or stronger quake. This area is three times larger than previously forecast.
The weekend also marked the start of full implementation of new, exceedingly stringent standards for radioactive element (cesium) contamination of food. For rice, grains, meat and fish, the new limit is 100 becquerel/kilogram, one-fifth of the previous temporary limit that was already high by global standards; for water it is 10 becquerel/kilograms against 200 under the previous standard.
The question is whether sometimes the bureaucratic impulse avoid any risk of future criticism by presenting the “worst case scenario” is really helpful. Following the March 11 disasters last year, government researchers doubled down on previous disaster scenario simulations. Some of the enhancement took account of the observation that tectonic plate movement had been geographically broader in the March 11 case than previously experienced or assumed. A subjective judgment was to increase the “black swan” element in the forecast, so as to include not just “once in several hundred year” events, but also “once in 1000 year” events. In areas between the Tokai and Tonankai troughs, and along Nankai Trough, magnitude-8 earthquakes occur every 100 10 150 years. Scientists assume simultaneous quakes occur every 300 to 500 years. For people living in Japan this is disquieting stuff, to put it mildly, but the government is not finished. This report was primarily to describe the geographic scope of devastation, not the content. We must wait until June for the estimates of death and destruction. Of course the ultimate question is: What can (or should) be done? Thirty meter walls do not seem to be the answer. The Central Disaster Management Council will offer an outline for counter-measures sometime next year. Whatever the government decides, it will not assuage the disquiet that any Japanese resident must now feel. (map)

No current tropical storms.

Less-active 2012 hurricane season predicted by Colorado State forecasters - The 2012 hurricane season promises to be less active than normal, and close to half as active as last year, when 20 tropical cyclones, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes were recorded.


Battered Fiji struggles to get back on its feet - Fiji may have escaped the ravages of tropical cyclone Daphne, but the tough times for the flood-hit South Pacific nation is set to continue. Fears are growing about the spread of disease at evacuation camps.

U.S. - 'VERY UNUSUAL' start to tornado season. Tornado season is only just beginning, but already this year has seen dozens of destructive twisters from Illinois to Texas, where up to 18 might have touched town on Tuesday alone in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The numbers show just how unusual: March saw 223 twisters, up from an average of 80 from 1991-2010. February saw 63, compared to an average of 29; and January saw 97, compared to an average of 35. "We've had record heat, and that warmth is a big ingredient that provides the instability for the storms." Last year started off slowly but then saw a record 758 tornadoes in April 2011. "Hopefully we're not on track for that this year."
U.S. forecasters have predicted a warmer than normal spring in the central part of the country, which could increase tornado threats. But countering that is the fact the cyclical La Nina weather pattern, which can help fuel twisters, is waning. Before Tuesday, the last big twister outbreak was on March 23, when tornadoes touched down in six states - Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri - killing one person, injuring dozens and damaging hundreds of structures. So far this year, tornadoes have caused 55 deaths, most on Feb. 29 and March 2 during outbreaks across the Midwest and the South. Through March of 2011, only 2 deaths were attributed to tornadoes. The peak months for tornadoes are usually April, May and June, so this season is really just beginning. Tuesday's outbreak suggests "we're on pace to be above normal".
Some climate scientists expect more extreme weather if global temperatures continue to rise, while others say the science is not strong enough to make that conclusion about single events or even a single season. (video)


Britain - Hosepipe bans affecting about 20 million customers have been introduced by seven water authorities in parts of southern and eastern England. People who flout the bans, which follow ONE OF THE DRIEST TWO-YEAR PERIODS ON RECORD on record, face fines of up to £1,000. The government has urged householders to be "smarter about how we use water". Using a hosepipe to water a garden, water plants, fill a pond or clean outdoor surfaces are all banned as are filling and maintaining ornamental fountains. But exemptions are in place for grass and surfaces used for national and international sports which means the Olympic and Paralympic games will be unaffected.
Water companies say they have no option but to put the bans in place to preserve essential water supplies but say they also need their customers to help cut down on their usage. Most of the suppliers expect the ban to last all summer. "Two dry winters have prevented rivers, reservoirs and aquifers from refilling with the water we treat and supply the rest of the year, especially during the hotter months when demand rises." There was no end in sight to the situation. "We have said from the outset that we very much regret having to impose this bar but this drought is becoming increasingly serious. We have no choice if we are to protect our customers by ensuring the long-term security of their water supply."
In some areas, drought has left groundwater below levels in the 1976 crisis when household supplies were cut off and standpipes used. The introduction of the bans follows the third-warmest March - and fifth driest - since records began in 1910. Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and west Norfolk have been in drought since last summer. Much of south-east England, including London, is also affected and parts of North, South and East Yorkshire have become the latest to be declared as officially in drought by the Environment Agency. (map)


A portable battery-operated plasma flashlight capable of killing some of the strongest bacteria could be used to treat patients in natural disasters and war zones, researchers say. The device, developed by Australian and Chinese researchers, resembles a torch and emits reactive plasma particles that can kill bacteria, and potentially treat wounds and even tumours. Previously, similar devices have often relied on an electricity connection or generators. This limited their use in natural disaster zones, ambulance call-outs, military operations and other remote locations.
The device can successfully penetrate 17 layers of extremely heat-resistant bacteria, called biofilm. It is the thickest reported biofilm killed by a room-temperature plasma device. The plasma flashlight was able to penetrate through to the very bottom layers to kill bacteria, while operating at room temperatures of between 20C to 23C, which would prevent damage to the skin. Biofilm is formed by bacteria to resist treatment and is very difficult to kill, even with intense heat. "That's why alternative approaches like this plasma are sought after." The results could advance techniques to kill biofilms formed by drug and treatment-resistant bacteria. The device is easy to make and costs less than $100 to produce. Creating a smaller version and different design could make it more appealing to the commercial market.