Monday, August 13 , 2012

No update on Tuesday again this week.

**There is only one basic human right -
the right to do as you please unless it causes harm to others.
With this right comes the only basic human duty -
the duty to take the consequences.**
P.J. O'Rourke

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
8/12/12 -

Overcrowded hospitals in northwest Iran struggled to cope with thousands of earthquake victims on Sunday as rescuers raced to reach remote villages after the two powerful quakes killed nearly 300 people. Thousands huddled in makeshift camps or slept in the street after Saturday's quakes for fear of more aftershocks, 60 of which had already struck. A lack of tents and other supplies left them exposed to the night chill. The worst damage and most casualties appeared to have been in rural villages around the towns of Ahar, Varzaghan and Harees, near the major city of Tabriz. But Iranian officials said rescue operations had ended by Sunday afternoon and that all those trapped beneath the rubble had been freed. Many villages are hard to reach by road, hindering rescue efforts. Hospitals in Tabriz, Ardabil and other cities nearby took in many of the injured, and there were long queues of survivors waiting to be treated. "I wanted to go there last night to help but heard there was bad traffic and that it wasn't safe enough. People in those villages need help."
"Despite the promises of officials, little first aide has been distributed in the region and most people are left without tents. If the situation continues, the toll will rise." There were traffic jams on the narrow road to Tabriz as victims tried to reach hospitals. The U.S. Geological Survey measured Saturday's first quake at 6.4 magnitude and said it struck 60 km (37 miles) northeast of the city of Tabriz, a trading hub far from Iran's oil-producing areas and known nuclear facilities. The second, measuring 6.3, struck 11 minutes later near Varzaghan, 49 km (30 miles) northeast of Tabriz.
More than 1,000 villages in the area were affected by the earthquakes. Some 130 villages suffered more than 70 percent damage, and 20 villages were completely destroyed. "One good thing was that the earthquake happened during the day, so many people were not in their homes. If it had happened at night the casualties would have been far worse." 5,000 people are believed to be injured. About 36,000 people in the quake-hit area have been given emergency shelter.
"Relief groups have still not reached many villages, because in normal conditions some of these villages are several hours away. Currently the roads are closed and the only way to reach these villages is by air." Photographs posted on Iranian news websites showed numerous bodies, including children, lying on the floor of a white-tiled morgue in Ahar and medical staff treating the injured in the open air as dusk fell on Saturday. Other images showed rescue workers digging people out of rubble - some alive, many dead.
Iran is crisscrossed by major fault lines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years. Saturday's quakes struck in East Azerbaijan province, a mountainous region that neighbors Azerbaijan and Armenia to the north. Buildings in Tabriz, the provincial capital, are substantially built and nobody in the city had been killed or hurt. Homes and business premises in Iranian villages, however, are often made of concrete blocks or mud brick that can crumble and collapse in a strong quake. Water, electricity, and phone lines in the area of Varzaghan are all down, further hindering rescue efforts. abriz residents left their homes and crowded the streets following the two quakes. "Everyone was scared last night. They set up tents and were sleeping in the streets and in parks."

Volcano Webcams

New Zealand - Their volcanoes are more unpredictable than we ever realised, new research reveals. Ruapehu, White Island, Tongariro, Auckland . . . the whole North Island is a tin lid clipped atop a pressure cooker, as shown by this week's eruptions. So why are they still so complacent - and why is the property around Auckland's volcanic cones still the most valuable in the country?
Mt Tongariro rumbled into life at 11.50pm on Monday, throwing ash and rock a kilometre into the air, sparking a potential threat warning for Central North Island regions. "The sky lit up like a big flash of lightning followed by a huge grumbling noise. Then I saw a large black cloud appear near the mountain. I assumed it was a bad storm, so went in and went straight back to bed."
It was nothing, really, said a resident. Nothing, when hectares of farmland are coated in ash. Nothing, when boulders smash through the roof, water tank and beds in Ketetahi Springs Hut. Nothing, when flights in and out of the east side of the North Island are shut down. Maybe it's because they're such a famously stoic people, but would the people of any other nation describe such an eruption as "nothing, really"? "Stoic" is the generous description. A more accurate one might be "complacent".
New research by Devora (Determining Volcanic Risk in Auckland), a multi-agency project to determine Auckland's volcanic risk, has discovered previously unknown levels of volatility in this country's volcanoes. This heightened risk, disclosed by Devora project team leaders on Sunday, should be a wake-up call to Aucklanders, in particular. The research shows there has been a lot more volcanic activity in the past than first thought, meaning the country's volcanoes, especially around Auckland, could be more unpredictable than previously believed.
Next month, a Civil Defence exercise will try to shock New Zealand into action by enlisting a million people - at home, work and school - to participate in the world's first nationwide earthquake drill beginning at 9.26am on September 26. "It's the kids we really have to get through to from an early age, so awareness and preparation for a major national disaster comes almost second nature and is passed to future generations."
New Zealand's varied landscape and its towering mountain peaks owe a lot to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions caused by the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates clashing beneath the Earth's surface, which has left parts of the country seismically active. The world's most dramatic volcanic eruption in 5000 years occurred here about 200AD. The Taupo eruption devastated much of the central North Island, emptying Lake Taupo in the process. Since Maori first settled here, they have seen volcanoes Tarawera, Rangitoto, Taranaki, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu and White Island intermittently and unpredictably spew out fountains of hot ash or lava.
The once-dazzling pink and white terraces on the shores of Lake Rotomahana were New Zealand's greatest national treasure. They were cherished by Maori and known far and wide as the eighth natural wonder of the world. Then, during an immense volcanic eruption in 1886, they disappeared. They now lie below the lake. Mt Ruapehu erupted most recently in 1995 and 1996. Mud flowed through the Whakapapa ski field and the slopes of the mountain were coated with volcanic ash.
Auckland, a city of 1.4 million people, sits uneasily atop more than 50 volcanic cones. A volcanic eruption in Auckland in the next 50 years has about a 4 per cent likelihood, although "considerable uncertainty surrounds this figure". Last year, four new volcanic craters were discovered underneath South Auckland, bringing the total number of volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field to 55. The most prominent of the new finds is a 300m diameter crater surrounded by a semicircular rim of volcanic ash. "There are a number of other places in the world with volcanic fields, the difference is none has a city the size of Auckland built on them."
Previously undiscovered layers of ash found under the lakes from other volcanoes further south, including Taupo, Okataina and Tongariro, suggest that New Zealand has undergone more volcanic activity than first believed. This raises questions about the future volatility of all Auckland's volcanoes. Worse case scenarios for the city include Rangitoto Island blowing apart, vapourising everything in its path, or cones the size of Mt Eden bursting out in Queen St, uprooting buildings and destroying infrastructure. If magma was to travel 80km to the surface and hit sea water, the eruption would create a catastrophic explosion. "There would be clouds of hot ash and steam. It would be a very significant event."
An eruption in the city centre could be just as devastating. "If the magma kept coming and there was enough of it, it could produce a scoria cone as big as Mt Wellington in the heart of the Central Business District." New findings showing Rangitoto is likely to have erupted more often than first thought. "We used to think that a volcano wouldn't erupt twice but now we know that might not be the case. Imagine if a volcano the size of Rangitoto popped up in downtown Auckland? That could happen, because it has happened in the past. "And who knows when the next one would be-it could be next week or in a thousand years. That is just the way it is."
Despite the large number of volcanoes in Auckland, they believe the field is currently stable and a greater threat to the city is likely to come from the fallout from a large eruption in the central North Island or elsewhere. "In Chile, I saw the damage volcanic ash can do from the eruption there last year. If the same thing was to happen in New Zealand it would be catastrophic. Cities and towns would grind to a halt, waterways would be clogged up and the land that livestock feeds on would be so badly affected thousands of animals would die from starvation or poisoning."
If an eruption the size of this week's one occurred in Auckland, the chaos would be immense. "Depending on the time of day, up to half a million people would be evacuated to outside of a 5km exclusion zone..."How long it would take to recover economically from something like that is anyone's guess." Most deaths or injuries would likely be caused by people refusing to leave the area or their homes. "History shows that this has been the case in a lot of major evacuations around the world. Hurricane Katrina in the United States a few years back was one of the best-managed evacuations ever, but there was still a lot of casualties from people who just wouldn't budge. And you can't force them."
One Auckland University student has his bags packed . His car at home is loaded with emergency equipment, including food, water, torches, batteries and a tent. He is ready to meet members of his family at a prearranged spot for them to escape the city as quickly as possible following an unexpected volcanic eruption. He has prepared a DIY emergency plan to follow in case of a major event. "I have taken a first-aid course and learned some survival techniques. I also have developed a habit of keeping my car topped up with petrol." He says people are all talk but no action and he is worried by their complacency. He is so concerned about volcanoes going off he tried to form a survivalist group. He was disappointed there were no takers.
Frustratingly, little has been learned from the deadly earthquake in Christchurch. "Our latest research shows Aucklanders are the least prepared in the country. It is great they feel they live in a safe place but because of the number of volcanoes it is not wise to simply ignore planning what you would do if a natural catastrophic occurred. They seem to think they are in a place with plenty of resources and nothing will happen to them... People in Christchurch and Wellington are twice as well prepared as Aucklanders."
Auckland does not look like a city built on a volcano. The views and lush plant growth afforded by the volcanic cones make them some of the city's most lucrative real estate. Real estate firms say people are even battling to buy in volcanic hot spots. Interest in such areas has never been higher and people are still prepared to pay top dollar to be in the zones for the best grammar schools. House values in Auckland are still soaring. Prices rose 3.1 per cent in the three months just gone, with an average sale price of $656,846. Values are up 6.3 per cent on an annual basis.
"It is a worry when people's safety plan is based on not being prepared. It is perhaps even timely that the eruption happened in Tongariro and that no one was hurt or extensive damage done. It will perhaps remind people about the importance of being prepared through joining the Shake-Out event and getting up to a million people participating in practising 'Drop, Cover, Hold'. Some people in Auckland might think this is only relevant for earthquakes but you have to remember that any volcanic eruption in the Auckland region would be preceded by a series of quakes anyway."

In the Eastern Pacific -
- Tropical storm Hector was located about 335 mi [540 km] S of the southern tip of Baja California and heading farther out to sea. No warnings are in effect.

In the Western Pacific -
- Tropical depression 14w (Kai-Tak) was located approximately 415 nm east-northeast of Manila, Philippines.


Waterspout reaches land to become Duluth, Minnesota's FIRST TORNADO TOUCHDOWN ON RECORD. A waterspout developed at approximately 11 a.m. CDT Thursday, two miles offshore from Duluth's airport over Superior Bay. The waterspout then turned into a tornado as it tracked briefly onshore. The tornado then went back into the bay as a waterspout before briefly turning into a tornado for a second time as it came onshore at Barker's Island, where it finally dissipated around 11:20 a.m. CDT.
The tornado was rated an EF-0 on the enhanced fujita scale, with winds from 65 to 85 mph. No damage was reported. Nonetheless, the tornado is the first confirmed on record to touchdown in Duluth. There hasn't been a tornado in the city limits in recorded history. "There was one outside of city limits back in 1986." The NWS says it appears the waterspout-turned-tornado developed near an inflection point along the leading edge of a strong surge of northeast winds and or small scale frontal boundary, which were enhanced by the very warm Lake Superior water temperatures.

Lightning strike creates 25-foot trench, damage to Massachusetts home - Strong to severe thunderstorms that hit parts of Massachusetts on Friday produced a lightning strike that created a 25-foot trench to a Foxboro home, leaving a elderly woman hospitalized. Firefighters said around 4 p.m. EDT, lightning hit a tree and it imploded, which sent chunks of wood that ripped down parts of a large fence and impaled a portion of the deck. The lightning strike then traveled across the yard while digging up a trench to the house, blasting apart the wood stairs and blowing off the gutters around the home.
The 74-year-old homeowner was rushed to a local hospital with chest pains, shortly after the incident. She is being monitored at a hospital, but her family said she should be okay. No fire was reported but there was a heavy smell of smoke following the lightning strike. At least one other home was struck by lightning as the storms moved through the area. (slideshow)


U.S. Hundred-Year Forecast: Drought - By many measurements, this summer’s drought is one for the record books. But so was last year’s drought in the South Central states. And it has been only a decade since an extreme five-year drought hit the American West. Widespread annual droughts, once a rare calamity, have become more frequent and are set to become the “new normal.”
Until recently, many scientists spoke of climate change mainly as a “threat,” sometime in the future. But it is increasingly clear that we already live in the era of climate change, with a growing frequency of weather and climate extremes like heat waves, droughts, floods and fires. Future precipitation trends indicate that droughts of this length and severity will be commonplace through the end of the century unless human-induced carbon emissions are significantly reduced. Indeed, assuming business as usual, each of the next 80 years in the American West is expected to see less rainfall than the average of the five years of the drought that hit the region from 2000 to 2004.
In the drought’s worst year, Western crop yields were down by 13 percent, with many local cases of complete crop failure. Major river basins showed 5 percent to 50 percent reductions in flow. These reductions persisted up to three years after the drought ended, because the lakes and reservoirs that feed them needed several years of average rainfall to return to predrought levels.
In terms of severity and geographic extent, the 2000-4 drought in the West exceeded such legendary events as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. While that drought saw intervening years of normal rainfall, the years of the turn-of-the-century drought were consecutive. More seriously still, long-term climate records from tree-ring chronologies show that this drought was the most severe event of its kind in the western United States in the past 800 years. Though there have been many extreme droughts over the last 1,200 years, only three other events have been of similar magnitude, all during periods of “megadroughts.”
Most frightening is that this extreme event could become the new normal: climate models point to a warmer planet, largely because of greenhouse gas emissions. Planetary warming, in turn, is expected to create drier conditions across western North America, because of the way global-wind and atmospheric-pressure patterns shift in response. Indeed, scientists see signs of the relationship between warming and drought in western North America by analyzing trends over the last 100 years; evidence suggests that the more frequent drought and low precipitation events observed for the West during the 20th century are associated with increasing temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere.
These climate-model projections suggest that what we consider today to be an episode of severe drought might even be classified as a period of abnormal wetness by the end of the century and that a coming megadrought — a prolonged, multidecade period of significantly below-average precipitation — is possible and likely in the American West. A megadrought would present a major risk to water resources in the American West, which are distributed through a complex series of local, state and regional water-sharing agreements and laws. Virtually every drop of water flowing in the American West is legally claimed, sometimes by several users, and the demand is expected to increase as the population grows.
Many Western cities will have to fundamentally change how they acquire and use water. The sort of temporary emergency steps that we grudgingly adopt during periods of low rainfall — fewer showers, lawn-watering bans — will become permanent. Some regions will become impossible to farm because of lack of irrigation water. Thermoelectric energy production will compete for limited water resources.