Monday, May 7, 2012

**Every great advance in science
has issued from a new audacity of imagination.**
John Dewey

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/6/12 -

Quake Ruins 50 Villages in Western Iran - A 5.5-magnitude earthquake, which shook large parts of Iran's Western provinces of Ilam and Kermanshah on Thursday, has ruined 50 villages. The strong earthquakes damaged 50 villages 30 to 80 percent in the quake-hit areas mostly in Abdanan, Sarabagh and Khonk-gah in Ilam province. The earthquake has affected 3518 and injured 18 people in the region. The Seismological center of Ilam province affiliated to the Geophysics Institute of Tehran University registered the quake at 14:39 hours local time (1009 GMT). Iran sits astride several major faults in the earth's crust, and is prone to frequent earthquakes, many of which have been devastating. The worst in recent times hit Bam in southeastern Kerman province in December 2003, killing 31,000 people - about a quarter of its population - and destroying the city's ancient mud-built citadel. The deadliest quake in the country was in June 1990 and measured 7.7 on the Richter scale. About 37,000 people were killed and more than 100,000 injured in the northwestern provinces of Gilan and Zanjan. It devastated 27 towns and about 1,870 villages. Tehran alone sits on two major fault lines, and the capital's 14 million residents fear a major quake.


Alaska - Iliamna volcano: 'Seismic swarm', but eruption not likely. Iliamna Volcano, located 140 miles southwest of Anchorage and 70 miles northwest of Homer, experienced increased seismic activity early Saturday morning, causing consternation among some Cook Inlet area residents. But according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, an eruption is still considered not imminent or certain. The Alaska Volcano Observatory's latest status report, from Saturday afternoon, does not indicate a change in status [Yellow/Advisory] for Iliamna despite the new activity: "Seismic activity at Iliamna Volcano remains slightly above background. Nothing unusual was observed in web camera and mostly cloudy satellite images over the past 24 hours. The current activity at Iliamna does not indicate an imminent or certain eruption." The observatory said Friday that a similar seismic swarm at Iliamna in 1996-1997 was not followed by an eruption, and further that historically the mountain hasn't exhibited volcanic activity. But according to the "webicorder" streaming seismic data from a monitoring station about 2 miles from Iliamna's summit, a band of new seismic activity began Saturday a little before 3:30 a.m. Saturday, and ended by 10:30 a.m.


"A Staggering Mess" as Tsunami Debris Hits Alaska Coast Early - Gulf of Alaska Keeper, a non-profit organization that estimates it has cleared nearly 1,000,000 pounds of plastic debris from Alaskan coasts over the past 10 years, is reporting “tons” of what it believes is likely tsunami debris washing up on the coasts of the Kayak and Montague islands. ““It’s a staggering mess [...] the magnitude of this is just hard to comprehend and I’ve been looking at this stuff a long time...In my opinion, this is the single greatest environmental pollution event that has ever hit the west coast of North America. The slow-motion aspects of it hayone is careful to say the debris is only “suspected” of having come from Japan’s March 2011 tsunami; there is plenty of marine debris on the ocean in general." But the newer condition and quantity of the debris that has been seen –”chunks of pink and blue insulation, which appear to be from buildings [and] white and black floats the size of oil barrels” –argue for the use of Occam’s Razor. This isn’t the first debris with Japanese printing to show up off our coasts: a soccer ball was returned to its owner, and a derelict fishing ship was sunk before it interfered with shipping lanes. The problem is that it’s early. The estimated time of arrival for the debris, in whatever shape, radioactive or not (KTUU says not), was supposed to be 2014. A Washington senator has been spearheading, with an Alaskan senator, a multi-pronged effort to prepare for the debris and protect the West Coast from being submerged beneath it. They've asked President Obama to give the National Science Foundation emergency funds for research to help better track tsunami debris and develop response plans, and have been pressuring the administration to rethink a 25-percent budget cut for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. "The time for talk is over. The prospect of debris coming to our shorelines is not just a theory, it is here. I urge the Obama Administration to respond to our request from several weeks ago to free up funding and resources so we can effectively deal with this debris and not be scrambling when it arrives.” That seems like common sense, but: “Unlike an oil spill or industrial environmental accident, there are no easily identifiable culprits with deep pockets that can be pursued to help pay for the clean up. This will all be on the American taxpayer, so you can understand the glacial pace of the response preparation.” NOAA has since released a somewhat ominous updated graphic illustrating their understanding of how much tsunami debris is still headed this way. (video)

In the Indian Ocean -

Tropical cyclone 19s was located approximately 420 nm north-northwest of Darwin, Australia. Tropical storm Nineteen is forecast to strike Indonesia at about 12:00 GMT on 7 May.

Thailand - Tropical storm damages houses in several provinces. A tropical storm has battered Prachuap Khiri Khan and Ratchaburi provinces, damaging several houses and buildings in the two provinces. The storm hit Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province on Wednesday evening, battering it with strong winds for over an hour. Over 60 houses have been damaged, power lines blown down and there was a blackout in several villages. The Hua Hin authorities have inspected the damage and given necessities to the residents. Meanwhile, in Ratchaburi, more than 10 houses have been damaged by the storm; most of them are in ruins. Authorities have to cut off electricity as big tree limbs fell over electrical wires; but after removing the limbs, they have switched the power back on. In Petchburi Province, a temple pavilion under construction tumbled down injuring three monks.

India - Three killed in Tripura cyclone. Cyclonic storms accompanied by lightning continue to create havoc in Tripura, killing three more people Wednesday, taking the death toll to 15.


Japan - A tornado ripped through eastern Japan Sunday, killing a teenager, destroying dozens of houses and cutting power to about 20,000 households. The exact cause of the death was not clear immediately, but the boy was among 12 people whom rescue workers rushed to hospitals after the twister. 15 other people in the city also sought medical care for tornado-related injuries. "The figure is only a temporary tally. We believe the number (of injuries) could rise." 30 to 50 houses were destroyed by the tornado, which struck about 12.45pm (1.45pm AEST). .A number of minor injuries were also reported in neighbouring Tochigi prefecture, and a swathe of eastern Japan was battered by strong winds, hail, lightning and heavy rain. Television footage from Tsukuba showed houses swept from their foundations, overturned cars in muddy debris and fallen concrete power poles. Aerial images showed possibly hundreds of houses and apartments with shattered glass windows, many of them with their roofs blown away. "You could see the roaring column of wind rushing with sparks from live power lines inside it." Japan's weather agency issued warnings for a wide region in the east of the country, urging people to seek shelter in case of sudden winds and thunder. The severe winds caused a power outage for nearly 20,000 households in the region.

Nepal - Dozens of people are still missing in Nepal after a mountain river burst its banks near Mount Annapurna, in the west of the country, causing flash flooding. A search operation for the 43 missing people was under way, but there was little chance of finding any of them alive. Three Ukrainian tourists trekking in the area are among the missing. At least 13 people died when the floods surged down the Seti river on Saturday.The floods damaged a suspension bridge used by the residents of Kharapani village. Eight people have been rescued from the surge of water. The area is popular with tourists. "We have a list of another 43 people who have gone missing. Their chances of survival are almost zero." Earth-moving equipment had reached the worst-affected area in an effort to find any bodies buried in the mud. Fast-flowing floodwaters from the swollen Seti smashed into two buildings and a number of shacks in the village of Kharapani, in Kaski district. The moment the surge hit: "There was nothing unusual. People were enjoying picnics, some were relaxing in the hot spring pools by the river and others working. Out of nowhere came this swelling dark murky water with debris, sweeping away many people." "We haven't seen such a flash flood in years. I saw floods 60 years ago but it was not as severe as now. This time they say everything across the river has been swept away." The floodwaters also swept into Pokhara, Nepal's second biggest city, where several people were swept away along with their houses and livestock. May is the end of the trekking season, but before the monsoon. The floods are thought to have been caused by waters of the Seti building near its source, high above the snowline, during days of rain and then suddenly bursting free. (map & photos)

Weather is on a wild ride, but is it actually getting weirder? - The feeling that extreme weather is getting less extreme -- that the unusual is becoming more common, that Mother Nature has lost her steady gait -- seems to be growing. After all, U.S. weather records have been toppling like tulips in a hail storm, more than 3,000 records last year alone, including one big one - the number of $1 billion weather disasters. These are events that, since 1980, have caused an inflation-adjusted $1 billion in damages. In a typical year, the United States sees three or four of them. In 2011, there were a record 14. "The weather is definitely weird," said the director of meteorology for the website Weather Underground. He's seen extreme events in the last two years that he had not seen in a 30-year career. "The climate is certainly much different today than when I was growing up." NOAA's climate service director for a 14-state region said it is tougher to tell if the weather has taken a permanent turn for the weird. "There is not any firm evidence of more extreme events now than in the past." He said people naturally tend to fixate on recent events. Missouri, in particular, has had a rough run of harsh weather. And looking at that, Kluck said, "it does seem like there's a lot more (weather) volatility." Consider what's happened with tornadoes, those familiar burdens of the Midwest. The number of weak twisters has grown dramatically since 1950, a NOAA study found. That could just be a consequence of more people out there to see them. Because, at the same time, the number of severe tornadoes has not changed. The trend lines for the number and cost of U.S. natural disasters have steadily risen since 1980, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Losses from thunderstorms have grown fivefold. Losses from winter storms have doubled since the early 1980s. NOAA research has found the United States has seen more unusually hot days and fewer unusually cold days over the past half century. The frost-free season is longer. Heavy downpours are more common in much of the country. So it certainly seems like something is going on. Last year, the Nobel-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared that the world needed to prepare for "unprecedented extreme weather" due to global warming. NOAA has not gone that far, yet. "Human-caused climate change is a fact," warming the Earth and tipping the balance in how climate reacts, it said. Models predict that the warmer air will add fuel to the power of extreme events. But "what's harder to say is how it will affect local weather." Some computer models predict that in 50 years, St. Louis could have a climate more like North Texas, with hotter summers and wetter winters and springs. A poll released last month showed a large majority of Americans believe global warming worsened the effects of several extreme weather events in 2011, including the record hot summer, mild winter, Mississippi River floods and Texas drought. More than 80 percent of people said they had personally experienced an extreme weather event in the past year. And by a better than 2-to-1 ratio Americans said the weather has been getting worse over the last several years, not better. A longtime meteorologist said he doesn't believe the weather is overall worse. "I'm more of a cycle person with how weather works." He doesn't think manmade global warming is powerful enough to affect the planet's climate. He is doubtful of long-range, global-warming computer models. "We have enough trouble with five days out." He even expects the climate will cool over the next five years -- just part of the cycle. He does not think extreme weather is here to stay. Extreme weather's star turn is part of the trend of people being bombarded by weather news, from forecasts on phones to 24-hour cable weather channels and weather websites to YouTube videos of tornadoes and mammoth hail.

The European Union hosts this week what could be one of the most significant meetings of the year on climate change. Last December's UN climate summit, in the South African port of Durban, saw heated discussions on a proposal that governments should commit to agreeing a new comprehensive global emissions-limiting deal with some kind of legal force before 2015. Reluctant nations found themselves up against a burgeoning coalition of principally small countries from the developed and developing worlds alike, which found common interest in tackling climate change as quickly as possible. The rainbow coalition included the EU, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), small islands vulnerable to impacts such as rising sea levels, and progressive Latin American countries such as Costa Rica. And deliver they did, eventually, with governments committing to agree a new global deal by 2015 and have it in force by 2020, with every country included. Since Durban, real world issues have begun to bear down on those leading the charge towards that new global deal. Recession continues to stalk the eurozone. And even though many European governments say green measures will not impoverish them further and may even make them richer, few are acting as though they believe it. Opposition to the inclusion of international aviation within the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) from countries such as China, the US and Russia has increased. As a result some European governments and senior EU officials fear a trade war could be triggered with nations that include eurozone creditors. Meanwhile, environment ministers and officials from the smaller developing countries are finding that on issues such as overseas aid contributions, Europe is not always behaving as the friend it appeared to be in Durban. That issue carries over into the climate change discussions, because here too the rich world has promised money - $100bn per year by 2020 - and if pledges are not being met in the arena of overseas aid, why should those developing countries believe pledges will be met in the climate context? Just five months on, the Durban coalition is a little battered. The next IPCC report is likely to make stronger forecasts on sea level rise than its predecessor That's an urgent priority, as the first meeting of the working group on the new process (the Durban Platform) is just a couple of weeks away and the visions of various countries on how it should progress are very different. They'll be talking about what needs to be done to ensure that an adequate proposal goes on the table at the next UN climate summit, in Qatar in December, for putting EU emission cuts (and possibly others too) under the Kyoto Protocol. They'll need to discuss how the 2015 deal can bring all countries into a new agreement that will eventually regulate emissions from all countries, yet contains the principle of equity at its heart, allowing poor countries room to emit carbon as they develop. They'll be trying to navigate the remaining hurdles to fully implementing new international schemes to bring financial support and clean technology from developed countries to their poorer counterparts. Some of the proposals on the table, such as a goal to double the global share of renewable energy by 2030 and moves to make agriculture more sustainable, would by themselves slow the rise of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Along the way, they'll be hoping to pick up a few countries such as Australia that didn't make it clear in Durban whether they belonged to the group pushing for the new deal or the one being pulled towards it reluctantly. Steps such as setting tighter rules on car emissions, regulating for energy efficient goods and building urban mass transit systems are already having an impact that can be measured. But without much faster uptake of such measures, the best estimate for the year 2100 would be a world that is on average 2.5 - 5C warmer than in pre-industrial times. Governments have heard such messages plenty of times before, of course. And they're likely to hear them louder than ever next year when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishes the first instalment of its fifth Assessment Report, which is likely to forecast harsher impacts ahead on factors such as sea level rise than the previous edition.


Peru examines deaths of more than 500 pelicans - The cause of the deaths remains a mystery. The government of Peru has warned people to stay off beaches along large stretches of its coastline as it investigates the mysterious deaths of hundreds of dolphins and seabirds. More than 1,000 birds, mostly pelicans, have washed up dead along the northern Pacific coast in recent weeks, after many dolphins died in the same area. The health ministry stopped short of closing beaches. But it advised people to stay away until the health alert was lifted. The area affected includes popular beaches near the capital, Lima. Peru's main holiday season is over, but the Pacific coast is still popular with surfers. Thousands of Peruvians also depend on the sea for their livelihoods. The health ministry alert warned local officials to wear gloves, masks and other protective equipment while handling dead birds and animals. Preliminary investigations have found the dolphin deaths may have been caused by a virus. A viral epidemic outbreak was linked to similar deaths of marine wildlife in Peru in the past, as well as in Mexico and the United States. But there has been no explanation for the deaths of pelicans. One theory is that a shift in ocean currents may have moved rich shoals of anchovy away from the coastline, leaving the birds without enough food.


Dry dog food implicated in multistate Salmonella outbreak - The detection of Salmonella during routine tests on dry dog food has uncovered an outbreak linked to a rare strain that has so far sickened 14 people in nine states. During the outbreak investigation, interviews with 10 of the sick patients revealed that 7 had contact with a dog the week before becoming ill. Of 5 who recalled the type of dog food, 4 identified dry products made by Diamond Pet Foods. The products were distributed mostly to eastern states, though the company said the dog food may have been sent to other states through pet food channels. So far states reporting illnesses are Alabama (1), Connecticut (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (3), North Carolina (3), New Jersey (1), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (1), and Virginia (1). Pet food recalls due to possible Salmonella contamination are fairly common, but few have involved known human illnesses or outbreaks.


-FunFresh Foods, Inc. of San Clemente, California in consultation with the FDA is voluntarily recalling a single lot of its 6 ounce packages of FunFresh Foods™ World Berries™ Organic “Cacao Nibs” because they may be contaminated with Escherichia coli.
-Church & Dwight Co., Inc. is voluntarily recalling Spinbrush Rechargeable SONIC toothbrushes because the charging base may overheat with localized melting and sparking, possibly causing fire, shock or burns. The risk of these malfunctions appears to increase with the age of the product.
-H-E-B has issued a voluntary and precautionary recall for certain Asian Ready-to-Eat meals due to the possibility of undercooked chicken in those meals. There have been no confirmed illnesses reported related to this precautionary recall.