Sunday, May 20, 2012

Japan - "The existence of the No. 4 reactor has become A MAJOR NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD that does not take a back seat even to North Korea's missile issue," says a professor emeritus at Tokaigakuen University who once served as Japan's ambassador to Switzerland. He had called for a halt to operations at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant even before the Great East Japan Earthquake struck last year. "If an accident should occur at the No. 4 reactor, it could be called THE START OF THE ULTIMATE CATASTROPHE FOR THE WORLD," he said in March.
A senator from the U.S. state of Oregon believes that there is a serious and unresolved understatement of the earthquake risk at Fukushima. He visited the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on April 6. He sent a letter dated April 16 to Japan's ambassador to the United States that said the storage pool holding spent nuclear fuel at the No. 4 reactor could collapse if the reactor building was hit by another major arthquake or tsunami. The senator warned that emissions of radioactive materials in such an event would be much greater than after last year's accident. The letter also said that work should be accelerated to remove the nuclear fuel from the pool and stated that the United States was prepared to provide all forms of support for such efforts. An expert says that if radiation spewed from nuclear fuel in the No. 4 reactor pool because of insufficient cooling, the total amount of cesium-137 emitted would be at least 10 times the amount released during the Chernobyl disaster.
Compared with the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors at the nuclear plant, which all experienced meltdowns, the No. 4 reactor was not seriously damaged by the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami because it was undergoing a periodic inspection at the time. However, the No. 4 reactor building houses a storage pool containing 1,535 spent fuel rods, the largest number of any of the reactors. An explosion and fire at the No. 4 reactor blew away the walls and roof of the steel-reinforced concrete building, so the reactor building was hit by major structural damage. Moreover, the storage pool is still not covered and remains exposed to the atmosphere. That situation has raised serious questions about what would happen if another quake with an intensity of 7 struck the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
"If the storage pool should collapse and the 1,535 fuel rods began burning in the atmosphere, an ENDLESS amount of radiation would be emitted. Of course, THAT WOULD MEAN THAT TOKYO WOULD BECOME UNLIVABLE. Just 50 meters from the No. 4 reactor is the common pool for the No. 1 to No. 6 reactors. The common pool holds 6,375 spent nuclear fuel rods. If a fire should occur at the No. 4 reactor pool, the common pool would also not stand a chance." That is the potential crisis at the No. 4 reactor that is causing so much fear around the world. In fact, immediately after last year's accident, the biggest concern raised by the United States was the storage pool at the No. 4 reactor.
Cooling of the storage pool has now been maintained. But a U.S. nuclear engineer who visited Japan in February said the nuclear fuel pool at the No. 4 reactor still HAS THE POWER TO PHYSICALLY SPLIT THE JAPANESE ARCHIPELAGO. He said the spent nuclear fuel in the No. 4 reactor pool is equivalent to several reactor cores and contains radiation equal to the amount released in the atmosphere by ALL past nuclear experiments. He has also written that the No. 4 reactor building's structure has weakened, the building is tilted, and that he has advised friends in Tokyo to immediately evacuate should the No. 4 reactor collapse.
TEPCO on April 26 issued a press release that disputed the claims. "The No. 4 reactor building is not tilted and it, including the storage pool, will not be destroyed by a quake." According to the release, measurements were taken to confirm that the floor where the storage pool is located is parallel to the water surface of the pool. TEPCO officials also explained that the steel support at the base of the pool and concrete wall had been reinforced by last July, which has increased by 20 percent the leeway against a possible quake. In addition, they conducted a simulation exercise that showed that even if a lower-6 intensity quake were to strike the plant again, it would not collapse. TEPCO has also begun work to cover the entire No. 4 reactor building in order to start removing the spent nuclear fuel from the storage pool. Work to remove the fuel rods could begin as soon as next year. However, one problem is that TEPCO’s information is now generally greeted with doubts.
In the United States, plans have been devised to set up a neutral and independent evaluation committee consisting of experts from around the world to look into the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant and consider ways to resolve the problems there. Such moves show that many feel TEPCO and the Japanese government can no longer be depended upon to deal with the accident. "Since TEPCO is, after all, a for-profit company, it cannot be said to be making every possible effort. There is no time to waste. Knowledge from around the world should be gathered as soon as possible to begin the work of removing the nuclear fuel from the storage pool."

**The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy,
and after all, our most pleasing responsibility.
To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal
is our only hope.**
Wendell Berry

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -
Continuing aftershocks in Italy (23 so far)

Yesterday -
5/19/12 -

5/18/12 -

A strong earthquake rocked a large swathe of northern Italy early on Sunday, causing at least three deaths and bringing about the collapse of rural factories and ancient bell towers in towns. The epicenter of the quake, which struck at 4:04 a.m. (0204 GMT) and had a magnitude of 6.0, was in the plains near Modena in the Po River Valley and the tremors were felt in nearby regions. It was the strongest quake to hit Italy in three years. One person working a night shift died in the collapse of a factory and two were killed when a modern ceramics factory made of steel crumpled. Rescue officials were checking reports that other people were buried under rubble.
There was serious damage to historic buildings such as the 14th century Estense Castle in the town of San Felice Sul Panaro, near the epicentre. There were fears that one of the towers of the famous mediaeval castle, the town's biggest attraction, could collapse. The town's main church was also severely damaged. Thousands of people living in the area rushed into the streets after the quake, which shook the major towns of Bologna, Modena, Ferrara, Rovigo, Verona and Mantua. No serious damage was reported in the larger, heavily populated towns and cities. A series of strong aftershocks hit the area, the strongest measuring 5.2, and local mayors ordered residents to stay out of their homes. The quake was centred 22 miles north-northwest of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 6.3 miles. The last major earthquake to hit Italy was a 6.3 magnitude quake in the central Italian city of L'Aquila in 2009, which killed nearly 300 people.

6-magnitude quake in Azerbaijan destroyed over 3000 facilities - 6-point earthquake occurred 15 kilometers south of Zagatala at 7:46 pm on 18 May. A 7-point quake that happened on 7 May destroyed or made unusable more than 3,000 homes and facilities. "The quake has led to collapse of buildings that have come to an emergency or a state of dilapidation from the 7-point quake. Yesterday the Service recorded a 6-magnitude quake, which has become a consequence of deep-crustal shear. On the surface, it was felt at the level of 5.4 points. As we expected, it is natural stress relief occurring after a large earthquake. Aftershocks, even such strong as yesterday’s quake, may continue in the epicenter of disaster for 2-3 months or more."

Volcano Webcams

Indonesia's Mount Marapi volcano, located in the province of West Sumatra, erupted early Friday at 7:15 am local time, lasting for nearly ten minutes.

The Fuego volcano in Guatemala has begun shooting lava and columns of ash into the air, and authorities have raised the alert level in the area. The volcano overlooks the tourist city of Antigua and is one of Central America's most active volcanoes. Fuego shot ash 5000 metres into the air. Lava flows reached up to 1,000 metres in length. Authorities have raised the alert level because Fuego is in an effusive stage. The measure involves closing nearby highways, installing monitoring stations and readying emergency workers. No evacuations have been ordered.


Mysterious small tremors in the most earthquake-prone areas on Earth may be the cause of surprisingly large tsunamis, researchers say. These findings might also shed light on the huge tsunami generated by the disastrous magnitude 9.0 quake that hit Japan in 2011.
Nearly all of the 10 largest recorded earthquakes on Earth happened along subduction zones, where one of the tectonic plates making up the planet's surface is diving beneath another. The shallow regions of these zones are often not seismically active by themselves, but occasionally strange tremors are recorded from these locales that are rich in very-low-frequency seismic waves. These shallow areas also seem to be home to so-called tsunami earthquakes, which generate tsunamis far stronger than one would expect for the amount of seismic energy they release. The Keicho quake of 1605 that caused disastrous tsunamis in Japan and killed thousands might have been one such earthquake.
Scientists in Japan used three ocean-bottom seismometers to analyze a swarm of very-low-frequency events in 2009. These occurred in the shallowest parts of the Nankai Trough, a part of a subduction zone near southwestern Japan that is rocked by giant earthquakes every century or so — most recently in 1946, when a magnitude 8.2 event killed an estimated 1,300 people. The researchers discovered that the very-low-frequency quakes — ranging from magnitudes of 3.8 to 4.9 — can last 30 to 100 seconds. This is UNUSUALLY long when compared with the 1-to-2-second duration of ordinary earthquakes with comparable magnitudes.
Although these very-low-frequency quakes get their name from seismic waves detected on land, the researchers discovered these events are actually rich in high-frequency waves as well. High-frequency waves tend to weaken with distance as they go through matter, which is why land seismometers did not detect these waves but ocean seismometers closer to the quakes did. The long duration of the quakes and the high-frequency waves now seen from them suggest these events may be caused by fluid seeping into fractures in the rock, making it easier for parts of the earth to slip past each other and generate tsunami earthquakes.
These findings suggest that authorities should keep a closer eye on the shallow areas of subduction zones. For instance, the huge tsunamis generated by the magnitude 9.0 quake that struck Japan in 2011 might be due in significant part to a slip in the shallow parts of the Japan Trench lying east of the country's main island. "It is very important for us to monitor continuously seismic activities close to the trench. It is mitigation against unexpectedly large tsunami disasters."

In the Atlantic -
Tropical Storm Alberto was located along the South Carolina coast. Dangerous surf conditions are possible along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina through Monday.

Alberto - Forecasters late Saturday issued a tropical storm watch for parts of the South Carolina coast after the first tropical storm of the 2012 hurricane season formed in the Atlantic, bringing an early start to the Atlantic hurricane season. Alberto is earliest-forming tropical storm in Atlantic since 2003. Top winds were 60 mph (97 kph), but it wasn't threatening land.

Tropical Depression Aletta Hung On; Another Potential Storm in Pacific - Tropical Depression Aletta hung on Friday, despite high shears and dry air. Meanwhile, another potential tropical disturbance is developing in the Pacific. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said that that Tropical Depression Aletta was better organized than it was 24 hours before. In fact, satellites placed the estimated strength back at Tropical Storm level. Tropical Depression level is sustained winds at 39 miles per hour or below. However, despite its potential to strengthen, forecasters believed that, eventually, Aletta would weaken and become a post-tropical remnant low in 36 to 48 hours. It is still not expected to affect any landmasses.
Meanwhile, a disturbance several hundred miles south and west of Acapulco is becoming more organized. Friday, the National Hurricane Center had the disturbance at a 40% chance of becoming a Tropical Depression or Tropical Storm within 48 hours. This disturbance was nearly stationary at the time.

Philippines - Potential cyclone could trigger flash floods, landslides in Visayas. State weather forecasters started tracking Saturday afternoon a potential cyclone - a low-pressure area - east of Mindanao.


Arizona - Nature gave firefighters a small reprieve Saturday from her incessant winds, allowing them to modestly trim the weeklong fire that has torched thousands of acres.

EU Wheat Settles At 11-month High On Weather Woes - European wheat futures soared Friday to close at their highest point for 11 months, as extreme weather in the former Soviet Union boosted sentiment, while Chicago also added support as the US market responded to domestic dryness concerns.

U.S. is most extreme in the weather stakes - Despite extreme weather, Australia is not as bad some other countries. Australia's weather is not as wild as a decade of drought, two years of floods and a series of cyclones suggests, a global study shows. Meteorologists at The Weather Channel performed an independent review of severe weather around the world, drawing on decades of data held by the World Meteorological Organisation.
The team ranked regions for bushfire, heatwaves, cyclones, tornados, rain, snow and temperature. "Many people think Australia is one of the most extreme climates in the world. People are surprised to find we're not number one. In many ways we're the lucky country, weather-wise. In North America they get blizzards, terrible tornados and hurricanes ... extreme weather on a bigger basis."
Australia made the top five in four of the eight categories, coming in at number one for bushfires, number three for heatwaves (where the top temperature exceeded the average maximum temperature by 5C for five or more consecutive days), and number five for the wettest location (Bellenden Ker in Queensland with 8352mm a year). The fourth-fastest cyclone, hurricane or typhoon to make landfall was Australia's tropical Cyclone Monica at 285km/h, after the US Hurricane Camille (310km/h) and Super Typhoons Joan and Megi at 295km/h that hit Taiwan and the Philippines.
Australia was not in the world's five driest locations, because even the driest area - around Lake Eyre - had occasional bursts of tropical rain. The US was the most extreme with the warm and humid Gulf of Mexico on one side and the cold, dry Canadian plains on another.