Sunday, August 12, 2012

Iran earthquakes kill 250 people - Rescue teams in northwest Iran strived on Sunday to dig survivors out of the rubble of villages levelled by twin earthquakes that killed at least 250 people and injured more than 2000. With telephone communications disrupted in the disaster zone, northeast of the city of Tabriz, emergency teams were relying on radios and travelling in person to hard-hit villages to rescue and assess the destruction.
The quakes, which struck on Saturday within 11 minutes of each other, measured 6.2 and 6.0 in Tehran. The US Geological Survey, which monitors seismic activity worldwide, ranked them as more powerful, at 6.4 and 6.3 on the moment magnitude scale, respectively. At least 250 people perished and more than 2000 have been injured. The toll could go up. "Up to now, there are no deaths reported in the cities and all the victims come from rural areas." Iran's Red Crescent took over a sports stadium to shelter the 16,000 people left homeless or too afraid to return indoors. Those hurt were taken to hospitals in Tabriz and Ardebil, the two biggest nearby cities, both of which escaped relatively unscathed from the quakes.
In contrast, villages outlying the towns of Ahar and Varzaqan, 60km from Tabriz, were decimated, being closest to the epicentres of the two quakes. Dwellings close to Heris, another town close by, were also badly shaken. Residents in the region were terrified as their homes shook around them when the quakes hit, and they fled into the streets for safety. The first earthquake occurred at 2223 AEST on Saturday at a depth of 10km. The second - actually a big aftershock - rumbled through from nearly the same spot. A series of more than 17 smaller aftershocks rating 4.7 or less rapidly followed. The disaster zone was located around 90km from the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan, and around 190km from the border with Turkey.
Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes, some of which have been devastating. The deadliest was a 6.6-magnitude quake which struck the southern city of Bam in December 2003, killing 31,000 people - about a quarter of the population - and destroying the city's ancient mud-built citadel.

**The hottest places in hell are reserved for those
who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.**
Dante Alghieri

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
8/11/12 -

8/10/12 -

'Thousands hit' by Guadalcanal quake in Solomon Islands - Thousands of people in remote villages have been affected by an earthquake on the famed World War II island of Guadalcanal. Only now is the aftermath being revealed - after the quake struck the Weather Coast, on the south of the Solomon chain's main island, late in July. The tremors set off landslides that covered villagers' gardens. The villages of Veramogho and Veuru are desperately short of food. Twenty-six houses were destroyed but there are no reports of deaths. The alarm was raised by a local Anglican priest, who managed to get to the private resort island of Tavanipupu, in Marau Sound, at the eastern tip of Guadalcanal. He told her thousands of people had been affected by the July 25 quake. "If the priest is to be believed, he said 15,000. I thought he said 1,500, but on questioning him he said, 'No, no, I mean 15,000', and I kept asking and he kept saying 15,000." The first aid boat she sent with supplies had to turn back because of high seas. They finally got under way again on Friday. "The reason it's called the Weather Coast is because the mountains come straight down to the sea and the wind is from that direction, so there's a huge surf on that side of Guadalcanal. So boats cannot land there." The geography also means no roads or airstrips in the immediate location. "From every report I've got, and it's not first-hand, there is serious hardship." She has heard that a broader aid mission is under way but so far it has been small-scale relief. "We had an American doctor visiting and she gave $US500, which we just spent for food, and we sent $5,000 Solomon of our own plus fuel, another $5,000 in fuel."

After two days, the earthquake swarm in Southern California appears to be slowing down - A series of more than 30 small to moderate temblors jolted the region beginning Tuesday night. Aftershocks continued into Wednesday and Thursday.

Volcano Webcams

New Zealand volcanoes - Mount Tongariro and White Island eruption updates and links to webcams. Overnight the activity from Tongariro Volcano remained weak. Seismicity in the local Tongariro area has remained low.
Overnight activity at White Island has remained at similar low levels. Volcanic tremor remains weak and a very low altitude plume of steam and gas with intermittent minor ash is being emitted. White Island is an active volcano and always presents some level of risk. Explosive eruptions can occur at any time with little or no warning. Ashfall prediction plot shows an area surrounding the island but not on the mainland.
Mount Tongariro could erupt anytime - Scientists say there is still a 50/50 chance that Mount Tongariro could erupt - and it could be at any time. Volcanologists studying rocks and ash that were thrown up by this week's blast kept a cautious two kilometre radius from the mountain's crater. The major finding was there was no fresh lava, only existing rock. ``It's what you'd expect to see. There's still a 50/50 call as to it could stay as it is or it could enhance.''
On flight over the mountain on Thursday, scientists measured "a couple of thousand tonnes'' of sulphur dioxide gas, which indicated molten lava was bubbling inside. "And whether or not that molten material carries on to the surface or stops where it is - we just don't have any strong indications either way at the moment.'' Indications an eruption was imminent included more earthquake activity and larger volumes of gas coming out of the crater. The best case scenario was a couple of weeks' notice of an eruption "or it could be a lot shorter. The mountain's in an eruptive episode, it's active, it could do what it pleases."
Both White Island, 51km north of Opotiki in Bay of Plenty, and Mt Tongariro were at low levels of activity, with small earthquakes continuing. "White Island continues to produce the plume that sometimes contains a bit more ash than other times. Tongariro is about the same. People would have seen some very nice steam plumes.'' The plume's visibility was the result of calm weather and cold air allowing the steam to rise. Any larger eruption at Mt Tongariro was likely to be on a relatively small scale, similar to eruptions at Mt Ngauruhoe in the 1970s, GNS said. Analysis of ashfall taken from Mt Tongariro earlier this week found moderate levels of the potentially toxic chemical fluorine.
Pumice 'Raft - Volcanic Rock Mass The Size Of Belgium [larger than the surface area of Israel] Floating Off New Zealand. A large pumice raft spotted floating in the Pacific Ocean was formed nearly a month ago when an unknown volcano erupted, scientists have determined. An Air force Orion spotted the huge raft, measuring 463 kilometres by 55 kilometres, on Thursday, and samples were collected later in the evening by the navy. Vulcanologists had thought it might have been produced by New Zealand's third erupting volcano, the undersea mountain Monowai, but that theory has now been put to rest.
Monowai started erupting on August 3, whereas scientists have determined the pumice raft was first spotted on July 19. An Air New Zealand pilot also took a photograph of it on August 1. Tahitian vulcanologists have determined that the raft became visible on July 19 and was caused by a volcanic eruption associated with a series of earthquakes in the days prior. They have pin-pointed the origin of the raft to 72 kilometres south west of Curtis Island, one of the Kermadec islands, halfway between New Zealand and Tonga. More than 157 earthquakes between magnitude 3 and 4.8 occurred in the area between July 17 and 18.
A GNS vulcanologist said he was unaware of any volcano in the specific location where the raft was believed to have originated from. "At this time I don't know if we could identify a sub-marine volcano at that location." It could have been emitted from a previously-unknown volcano, or it could be that others have knowledge of a volcano in the area while he doesn't, he said. GNS will be liaising with colleagues to help determine what undersea volcano the pumice came from. They would be assessing samples obtained and should have results within the next couple of weeks.
Pumice rafts are not uncommon. They could float for thousands of kilometres, be washed ashore or become saturated and sink. Some rafts from Indonesia have ended up in Hawaii, while others from eruptions near Papua New Guinea have ended up at the Marshall Islands. This raft from near Curtis Island was last spotted by the navy on Thursday, approximately 85 nautical miles west-south-west of Raoul Island. (video)

In the Eastern Pacific -
- Post-Tropical Cyclone Gilma was located about 700 mi. [1125 km] W of the southern tip of Baja California. The last advisory has been issued on this system.
- Tropical storm Hector was located about 250 mi. [405 km] W of Manzanillo, Mexico. The eighth tropical storm of the season is expected to move farther out to sea over the next few days.


Philippines flood toll - The death toll in floods that struck the Philippine capital Manila has risen to 85.

A RARE summer storm blasted the Arctic this week, beginning off the coast of Alaska, and moving over much of the Arctic Sea for several days before dissipating. Although the storm itself was uncommon — NASA estimates that there have only been about eight similarly strong August storms in the last 34 years — the real news behind the meteorological event is the stunning Aug. 6 satellite photo.
Scientists are left speculating what the impact of such a storm could be. Arctic storms such as this one can have a large impact on the sea ice, causing it to melt rapidly through many mechanisms, such as tearing off large swaths of ice and pushing them to warmer sites, churning the ice and making it slushier, or lifting warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean. “It seems that this storm has detached a large chunk of ice from the main sea ice pack. This could lead to a more serious decay of the summertime ice cover than would have been the case otherwise, even perhaps leading to a new Arctic sea ice minimum. Decades ago, a storm of the same magnitude would have been less likely to have as large an impact on the sea ice, because at that time the ice cover was thicker and more expansive.”


Steamboat, passengers halted at Memphis on drought sunken Mississippi River - A steamboat trip for hundreds of passengers from Louisville, Ky. to Vicksburg, Miss. had to be halted at Memphis, Tenn. due to the drought sunken Mississippi River. The steamboat, which began its trip on Aug. 3, started experiencing navigation problems due to the very low river levels in the Memphis area on Wednesday. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been hard at work dredging the river to keep the channels flowing. There have already been dozens of incidents of barges running aground.
The Mississippi River at Vicksburg was only at 1.48 feet early Friday afternoon. The river is forecast to continue to fall to 0.60 feet by next Wednesday. The record low flood stage here is minus 7.00 feet, set back in 1940. A widespread significant drought ongoing across the Midwest and Ohio Valley combined with several intense heat waves have been contributing to the record to near record low Mississippi River. This is one year after the opposite extreme on the river resulted in historic rises and flooding all along the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Now the river is at its LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 1988. The Lower Mississippi River drains 31 states and two provinces in Canada.

As Severe Storms Overwhelm China's Infrastructure, Experts Warn That It Will Get Worse. On July 21st, the heaviest rainstorm to strike Beijing, China in over 60 years dumped an average of more than 7 inches of rain across the city, causing floods and leading to the deaths of more than 70 people. One suburb, Fangshan, received more than 18 inches of rain from the storm. The storm triggered devastating mudslides and have left thousands displaced or homeless.
According to a researcher at the Beijing Meteorological Bureau rainstorms like this one will become more and more common in the future, thanks to a warming planet. “Global warming has increased the temperature in the middle and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in more water-vapor exchange and heat exchange with low-latitude regions, and thus bringing more frequent heavy precipitation.” Storms like the recent Beijing event, though less severe, are not uncommon in southern regions. But they ARELY ever venture as far north as Beijing. However, there is statistical evidence that shows major storms have become more frequent in the north since 2008.
China is facing the same trends seen in the United States. A recent report from the Environment America Research and Policy Center entitled “When It Rains, It Pours,” looked at the increased severity and frequency of major precipitation events. The study found that extreme storms are occurring 30 percent more frequently in the U.S. than they were in 1948 and that major downpours are producing 10 percent more rain each year.
More intense rainstorms could be a major issue for China, which has problems with urban drainage systems. In China, storm drains are organized by location, with the most important sites and most traveled roads prioritized, thereby opening the possibility of flooding elsewhere. The drains were also built to handle one-in-five year storms; however, as the data suggests, storms of that magnitude may soon become the new normal.
The rain in the most recent storm fell at a staggering rate, almost five inches an hour in Beijing, about four and a half inches an hour in Hong Kong, and a little over four inches an hour in a province in central China — overwhelming the out-of-date and poorly-designed drainage and sewer systems that are capable of handling water levels less than a third of what was experienced. Over the last two years, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou have “announced multibillion-yuan projects to maintain and upgrade drainage systems,” but more must be done. As storms continue to become more intense and more frequent, floods will continue to be a major for infrastructure in China’s metropolitan centers.
China urged to guard against extreme weather - A top meteorological official has urged authorities to guard against extreme weather in China during the coming months, as UNUSUALLY WARM ocean temperatures caused by El Nino will impact seasonal weather patterns. China has been under the influence of El Nino since July and will continue to feel its effects into the fall.
Under El Nino, heavy rains are likely to hit the middle and eastern parts of China this August, according to an offical, who called for strengthened flood control efforts in the Haihe River Basin in North China and along the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. Lower-than-average rainfall and higher temperatures will appear in the fall, except in the northern parts of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and the northeastern provinces.
El Nino is not to blame for the recent typhoons and will actually lead to weaker typhoon activity after the autumn season. Typhoon Haikui, which made landfall in the coastal province of Zhejiang at 3:20 am Wednesday, has brought heavy downpours to East China and left three people dead as of Thursday. It was the third typhoon to wallop China's eastern coast in a week, after storms Saola and Damrey hit the region over last weekend.
El Nino, characterized by an abnormal warming of the sea surface in the Equatorial Pacific, can cause exceptionally heavy rainfall in some parts of the globe and extreme droughts in others. El Nino conditions occur every two to seven years, with stronger events generally occurring every 10 to 15 years. El Nino is believed to have played a major role in weather changes that caused devastating deluges in China in 1998.

Wildfires raging on the Canary Islands of La Gomera and Tenerife have forced the evacuation of more than 4700 people. Spanish firefighters are tackling fresh blazes on two of the Canary Islands, as residents abandon homes and a rare forest reserve is threatened.