Friday, August 10 , 2012

It's only a matter of time before a huge earthquake strikes a major city and results in a death toll "UNPRECEDENTED IN HUMAN HISTORY". A well-known Scottish scientist delivered that grim prediction Wednesday. The risk of disaster has grown because a growing number of mega-cities are built on or near major earthquake faults. Large settlements since antiquity have been based on these fault lines because they also help provide water and are usually located near flat plains ideally suited for growing crops. This "fatal attraction" to dangerous areas was "actually a good thing", because historically the trade-off was worth it since earthquakes were rare and most cities were not that large. While earthquakes today were often less destructive because of improved building codes, more people are affected because cities are larger.
Despite the danger of such hazards, people were still drawn to earthquake-prone California, and the US gulf states which are routinely hit by hurricanes. Although it might seem that the number of natural disasters around the world is increasing, there are simply more people living in harm's way, and that fact creates the illusion. "We create the template that brings these disasters." Similarly, people want to live only 20m from the beach, even in regions liable to be struck by tsunamis. Even after properties have been destroyed, many owners vow to rebuild. Further research is needed to understand why people continued to have such a high threshold for living in danger zones and why they often chose to ignore the science that could save their lives. (map showing earthquakes since 1898, by magnitude, pinpoints the Ring of Fire in vivid green)

**If people concentrated on the really important things,
there would be a shortage of fishing poles.**
Doug Larson

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
8/9/12 -

Small earthquakes still rumbling Southern California - highlighted by two magnitude 4.5 temblors. Some called it an "earthquake cluster," others a "swarm." Seismologists used the term "earthquake sequence." Whatever the name, a series of more than 30 small to moderate temblors jolted Southern California on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Small earthquakes continued to rumble Yorba Linda early Thursday. The cluster of earthquakes are not out of the ordinary for Southern California, but the region has not seen this type of sequence in a few years.

Volcano Webcams

New Zealand - Scientists are investigating an undersea volcanic eruption which has created a large "pumice raft" 400km west of Raoul Island. New Zealand's National Maritime Coordination Centre has reported a sea disturbance 100 nautical miles long and 25 nautical miles wide, located 400km west of Raoul Island. It was originally thought that the undersea volcano Monowai had erupted but it is northeast of Raoul Island. Raoul Island is part of Kermadec Islands and is 1100km northeast of New Zealand.
The pumice raft has been caused by an undersea eruption - when magma flows into the sea it quickly cools and turns into pumice and then floats to the surface. Asked if the undersea eruption was linked to the eruption of Mt Tongariro and an eruption on White Island this week a scientist said: "It's all along the same boundary but that is about where the link stops". A navy vessel has picked up samples of the pumice and GNS scientists are on board the vessel.
Tongariro eruption: volcano still being monitored - Scientists were hoping to fly over Mt Tongariro again Thursday to learn more about Monday night's volcanic eruption. There had been little seismic activity at the mountain overnight. Early analysis pointed to a small likelihood of another eruption soon at Mt Tongariro. White Island, which is in the same seismic zone, has been continually erupting since Sunday night. "For the last decade or so we've not really seen that at all. The last explosive eruption was in early 2001." From 1976 to 2001 White Island was "very, very active" with "a lot of ash coming out and small explosions. We've had a decade [of rest] and now it seems as though it's starting up again."
"One of the hazards is what we call ballistics, basically big rocks. We usually define a roughly 3km radius around the crater for the typical distance these things can fly. That's obviously a really high hazard, because if one hits you and it is more than about a pea-size, it will probably kill you." What the earthquake will do next is anyone's guess. "This is the question that we simply do not have an answer for, particularly when volcanoes are in a period of waking up they can have an eruption and then do nothing for days and weeks and then gradually build up over time, or it could be something like the Ruapehu 2007 eruption or Raoul Island 2005 eruption which were just one-shot wonders."
Bubbling magma suggests large Tongariro eruption possible - Tests have revealed that magma is bubbling high inside Mount Tongariro, which could suggest a larger eruption is imminent. A series of samples have been tested since the volcano's Te Mari crater erupted on Monday night, but the latest results give the greatest insight. The results detected sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide in the steam plume, which indicated that magma was near the surface of the crater. This could lead to a magmatic eruption, but it's also likely that a series of steam eruptions could follow. Or perhaps, nothing at all. The volcano was still ejecting steam and gas. Tremors continue to shake the earth below it. GNS Science says a minor amount of ash is visible from some steam vents. Scientists are undertaking further visual observations and will be collecting gas and water samples from the nearby Ketetahi hot springs.
Meanwhile, a 4.7 magnitude earthquake in the Bay of Plenty has had no impact on White Island, which erupted on Tuesday night. It was the first eruption in 12 years for the country's most active and largest cone. White Island tends to have volcanic episodes which last a few months to a few years, so this could just be the start of more to come. The Te Mari crater last erupted in 1897.

In the Atlantic -
- Tropical storm Ernesto was located about 85 mi. [135 km] SSW of Veracruz, Mexico. Ernesto is expected to produce additional rainfall accumulations of 2 to 5 inches over the Mexican states of eracruz...Tabasco...Puebla...and Oaxaca through tonight. Isolated maximum storm total amounts of 15 inches are possible. These rainfall amounts may produce life threatening flash floods and mudslides. Ernesto is expected to dissipate today as the cyclone continues to move inland over the high terrain of southern Mexico.
- Tropical depression 7 - Interests in the Windward Islands should monitor the progress of this system. Tropical storm watches could be required this morning. The depression could become a tropical storm today.

In the Eastern Pacific -
- Tropical storm Gilma was located about 695 mi. [1115 km] WSW of the southern tip of Baja California. No watches or warnings are in effect.

In the Western Pacific -
- Tropical storm 13w (Kirogi) was located approximately 470 nm east of Misawa, Japan. The last advisory has been issued on this system.

Tropical Storm Ernesto - 3 dead. A Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday, tropical storm Ernesto spun across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday, then headed into the Gulf of Mexico after forcing the evacuation of thousands of tourists and fishermen from beaches in Tulum and the Costa Maya. Ernesto weakened as it traveled inland from the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, but it sent wind gusts and showers across the state of Veracruz, home to some of Mexico's busiest ports and oil installations. The storm, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, made landfall in the early afternoon close to the port city of Coatzacoalcos. Ernesto was heading west over southern Mexico at a speed of about 14 mph.
The hurricane center said it expects further weakening as Ernesto moves over mountainous terrain on Friday. However, torrential rain and flooding was expected and authorities reported three deaths. Officials from state-run oil company Pemex said there were no reports of disruptions to facilities in the region, which include the Minatitlan refinery, producing 185,000 barrels of crude per day. The eye of the storm passed the oilfields of Cantarell and Ku Maloob Zaap, which account for just over half of Mexico's oil production of about 2.5 million bpd. Authorities in Veracruz said they were preparing emergency shelters, if needed, in the flood-prone and densely populated state. The small Mina-Coatza airport, between Minatitlan and Coatzacoalcos, was closed on Thursday and waves of 13-20 feet were reported along the coast.
Two people drowned and about 100 houses were damaged as the storm swept through the swampy state of Tabasco toward the Gulf of Mexico. One person died in Coatzacoalcos after falling while working on home repairs. The storm spared major tourist areas on the peninsula from a direct hit and landed in sparsely populated low-lying jungle, near the port town of Mahahual, 40 miles north of Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo state. Ernesto passed well south of the major tourist resort of Cancun, which saw only heavy rains. Ernesto is forecast to plow through Veracruz state and into central Mexico today as a tropical depression.
Tropical Depression Seven formed out in the Atlantic, but is heading west toward Central America. It is set to strengthen to a storm today and it could reach the Caribbean over the weekend.

US hurricane forecast upgraded to 17 storms - US weather officials have slightly increased their predictions for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season to 12 to 17 tropical storms, with five to eight reaching hurricane strength. The Atlantic basin has seen six named storms so far this year. In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted nine to 15 storms, with four to eight becoming hurricanes. Thursday's revised forecast is in part because of "storm-conducive wind patterns" and "warmer-than-normal" water temperatures. The most recent storm, Ernesto, hit Mexico as a hurricane on Tuesday, and has since weakened to a tropical storm. The six-month Atlantic hurricane season began in June. Two tropical storms, Alberto and Beryl, formed in May. Noaa forecasters are also expecting an El Nino, a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific, in late August or early September, but do not expect its effects to be felt on the Atlantic until later in the hurricane season.