Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Zealand - Tongariro eruption. The volcano, quiet for more than a century, erupted in a New Zealand national park, spreading thick ash [several centimeters (one or two inches)] for several kilometers (miles) and causing some residents to evacuate their homes. Some domestic flights were canceled Tuesday. The volcano erupted suddenly on Monday night, spewing ash as far as Napier and Hawke's Bay. The eruptions caught geologists by surprise. GNS Science says it is not ruling out further eruptions. Tongariro is one of three volcanoes in the middle of the North Island, about 340 kilometers (211 miles) north of the capital city Wellington. It lies just to the north of Mount Ngauruhoe, which was used by film director Peter Jackson to depict Mount Doom in "The Lord of the Rings" films.

**If you want to double your rate of success,
be prepared to triple your rate of failure.**
Harvey Mackay

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New Zealand - North Island. A flyover of Mt Tongariro is showing some vents on the mountain are still steaming, but activity levels were low. The observations did not change the volcano's prognosis for eruption though. "Current eruptive activity is low level but could re-commence at any time. The Aviation Colour Code is reduced to Yellow, which recognises that activity has decreased but renewed unrest is possible." It was hard to tell what was happening above the Upper Te Mari crater, because cloud cover was blocking views into the vents.
GNS said previously steaming ground at Ketetahi and the Lower Te Mari crater appeared "more vigorous", but there were no obvious major changes. The flyover showed blocks of old lava and hydrothermally altered lava up to about one metre size were ejected by Monday night's eruption. The surrounding area shows the battle scars of Monday night's eruption with volcanic rock and ash clearly visible down to ground level. Residents around the base of Mt Tongariro remain in a "state of readiness" should the crater suddenly burst into life. But the small scale eruption has not deterred thrillseekers heading up to Ruapehu ski fields. Gas and sulphur smells from the Mt Tongariro eruption have travelled as far as Wellington. Many people have reported a smell of sulphur in the air in the capital. And there had been quite a few reports from the lower North Island of a sulphur smell. "It's a little bit surprising it has gone as far as it has. It will be dissipating as it goes."
Rising magma sparking earthquake swarms and superheating Tongariro's geothermal systems in recent weeks is the most likely cause of Monday's steam-driven eruption. Volcanic gas and periodic swarms of about 100 earthquakes had been recorded since scientists first noticed tremors on July 13. Tongariro had experienced only one or two shakes a year in the past decade. The earthquakes were centred two to seven kilometres beneath the mountain and had probably been triggered by magma "looking to find a way out". Two tpes of eruption had yet to be ruled out - a phreatomagmatic eruption, where water and molten rock mixed, causing the magma to fragment in an explosive eruption; and a purely magmatic eruption, involving no water. The rumbling could either stop completely, continue with same-size eruptions, or it could be the start of a "bigger eruptive sequence, which would probably mean larger eruptions, with more ash produced, probably leading to more widespread deposition of ash, to a thicker amount".
The most likely cause for the eruption was rising molten rock 1km to 5km beneath ground level heating and destabilising the hydrothermal system. Hydrothermal eruptions tended to recur and could escalate into larger, energetic molten eruptions which spewed out lava and rocks. Lack of rain, the small size of the eruption and mild ash fall meant there was no lahar.

New Zealand - White Island volcano alert level raised. A volcano off the coast of Whakatane continues to show signs of increased activity, with scientists raising the alert level from level one to level two on Monday. GNS Science raised the alert level after monitoring of the White Island web camera captured a small eruption on Sunday morning from the Crater Lake. During the past week there has been an increase in volcanic tremor and volcanic gas levels.
The aviation colour code for White Island, the country's most active volcano, was lifted from green to yellow by GNS Science last month to alert pilots flying over the Bay of Plenty region. Monday it was changed to Orange. "These phenomena are not unknown for White Island, but this is the first substantial confirmation that small scale eruptions are now occurring on the island and confirms the risk to visitors has increased. White Island is an active volcano and there is always risk when visiting the island and vessels travelling nearby should keep alert. Eruptions can occur at any time with little or no warning. Extra caution should be taken if visiting the island."
Overnight Friday 27 to Saturday 28 July the lake level in the Crater Lake at White Island rose by about three metres to 5m. A volcanic earthquake was also recorded indicating an eruption may have occurred. Since then, a flow of gas and steam has been present through the lake, and from vents near the lake. A gas flight on August 1 recorded increases of sulphur gases in the steam and volcanic gas plume. Since early July there have been intermittent periods of volcanic tremor, becoming more continuous since July 28. A particularly strong episode was recorded overnight August 4-5, and ended in a volcanic earthquake at 4.54am.
"We haven't seen anything like this for the last couple of years and that increases the likelihood that something is going to be expelled from the volcano that might impact on aviation traffic." Volcanologists visit the island every three months, and seismic signals are monitored continuously. White Island last erupted in 2000.

In the Atlantic -
- Hurricane Ernesto made landfall along the southern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula near Mahahual, Mexico as a category 1 hurricane. The government of Mexico has issued a Hurricane Watch for Mainland Mexico. Ernesto is expected to emerge over the Bay of Campeche by this afternoon or evening.
Ernesto is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 3 to 5 inches along the northern coast of Honduras, with isolated maximum amounts of 8 inches over mountainous terrain. Total rainfall accumulations of 4 to 8 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches are possible over Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula and northern Guatemala. These rains may produce life threatening flash floods and mud slides over higher terrain. A storm surge of 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels is likely in areas of onshore winds in the warning area along the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Early reports from ham radio operators indicate storm surge flooding of more than 2 feet has occurred on Ambergris Caye Island, Belize.

In the Eastern Pacific -
Tropical storm Gilma was located about 615 mi [990 km] SW of the southern tip of Baja California. Gilma could become a hurricane today.

In the Western Pacific -
- Tropical storm 12w (Haikui) was located approximately 95 nm south of Shanghai, China. The final warning has been issued on this system.
- Tropical storm 13w was located approximately 840 nm north-northwest of Wake Island.

The National Hurricane Center is predicting Ernesto will weaken to a tropical storm once it reaches the Yucatan, but then it could regain strength after passing over the peninsula and strike near Veracruz as a hurricane as well.


Philippines - 'Like a water world': Torrential rains submerge half of Philippine capital. The deluge, the worst since 2009 when hundreds died in rampaging flash floods, was set off by the seasonal monsoon that overflowed major dams and rivers in Manila and surrounding provinces. Relentless rains submerged half of the sprawling Philippine capital, triggered a landslide that killed nine people and sent emergency crews scrambling Tuesday to rescue tens of thousands of residents who called media outlets pleading for help.
The rains flooded 50 percent of metropolitan Manila on Monday evening, and about 30 percent remained under waist- or neck-deep waters Tuesday. Manila’s weather bureau said a tropical storm off eastern China had intensified monsoon rains in the Philippines, which were forecast to last until Thursday. In Manila’s suburban Quezon City, a landslide hit a row of shanties perched below a hill, burying nine people. Army troops and police dug frantically to save those buried, including four children, as surviving relatives and neighbors wept. All the victims were recovered, some whose bodies were found near an entombed shanty’s door as they apparently tried to flee. TV footage showed rescuers dangling on ropes to bring children and other residents to safety from flooded houses across the city. Many residents trapped in their homes called radio and TV stations desperately asking for help.
ABC-CBN TV network reported receiving frantic calls from people whose relatives were trapped in the deluge, many without food since Tuesday morning. They included a pregnant woman with a baby who wanted to be rescued from a roof and about 55 people who scrambled to the third floor of a Quezon city house as water rose below them. Vehicles and even heavy trucks struggled to navigate water-clogged roads, where hundreds of thousands of commuters were stranded. Many cars were stuck in the muddy waters. The government suspended work and classes Tuesday and Wednesday. Some shopping malls opened with limited grocery supplies that were quickly picked up by shoppers waiting in long lines.
The La Mesa dam, which supplies water to the capital of 12 million people, spilled excess water early Tuesday into the rivers flowing into Quezon City, as well as the neighborhoods of Malabon, Valenzuela and Caloocan, where several villages were submerged. Along the swollen Marikina River, nearly 20,000 residents have been moved away from the riverbanks but many others asked to be rescued. The Philippine Stock Exchange in the flooded financial district of Makati was closed. Also closed was the U.S. Embassy along Manila Bay in the historic old city, which was flooded last week when a storm surge pushed the water over the seawall. In 2009, massive flooding spawned by a typhoon devastated Manila and surrounding areas, killing hundreds. The state weather bureau said that the current flooding was not as severe and that the weather may start to improve later this week.

AUSTRIA – Storms wreaked havoc in Austria and northern Italy over the weekend, causing landslides that killed two people. An 84-year-old woman was killed when a landslide hit a farm in Afens, on the Italian side of the border with Austria. In nearby Tulfer, the body of another woman who had been declared missing after her house was struck by a mud flow was uncovered on Sunday morning.
Major storms lashed much of Austria and northern Italy late Saturday, causing flooding and power cuts, and disrupting rail and road connections. About 1,000 homes were without electricity Sunday morning in the Virgental valley in southern Austria. In South Tyrol, a northern province of Italy, some 500 emergency workers, firefighters and civil protection officers were mobilized to deal with the damages. The rail line between Austria and Italy over the Brenner Pass was buried by a landslide overnight and was expected to remain shut for two weeks. Road and rail connections were also shut elsewhere in Austria, including in Tyrol, Styria and Salzburg provinces. Most were due to re-open on Sunday but others remained closed due to a further risk of landslides. In Styria, several houses had to be evacuated after they were flooded, and cellars in northern Austria were also filled with water following heavy rain. A few barns meanwhile went up in flames after they were hit by lightning, with over 250 animals perishing at one farm in northern Austria.


H3N2 found in most pigs tested following human cases - A high proportion of pigs tested for H3N2 influenza in connection with recent human cases of variant H3N2 (H3N2v) in Indiana and Ohio have been found to carry the virus.
Indiana and Ohio reported a total of 14 more cases of variant swine-origin H3N2 influenza (H3N2v) Monday and over the weekend, raising the apparent US total in recent weeks to 30 and continuing a string of cases related to agricultural fairs.