Monday, September 17, 2012

Loss of Arctic ice may trigger extreme weather - Arctic sea ice is shrinking at a rate much faster than scientists ever predicted and its collapse may well cause extreme weather this winter in North America and Europe.
Last month, researchers announced that Arctic sea ice had dwindled to THE SMALLEST SIZE EVER OBSERVED BY MAN, covering almost half the area it did 30 years ago, when satellites and submarines first began measuring it. While the loss of summer sea ice is likely to open up new shipping lanes and may connect the West Coast of the United States to the Far East via a trans-polar route, researchers say it will also affect weather patterns and Arctic wildlife.
“It’s probably going to be a very interesting winter." Some researchers believe that shrinking Arctic ice can be tied to such recent weather events as prolonged cold spells in Europe, heavy snows in the Northeastern U.S. and Alaska, and heat waves in Russia. Decades ago, Arctic ice covered about 6 million square miles of sea in the winter, and would shrink to about 3 million square miles in the summer. The rate of summer melt increased enormously around 2005, however, and today scientists say Arctic ice covers about 1 million square miles. “This is a very small amount of ice indeed." While Arctic ice used to build up over many years, new ice formations are now breaking up and melting each summer.
“I think that what we can expect in the next few years is further collapse leading to an ice-free Arctic in summer. It really is a dramatic change.” Previously, scientists had predicted that it would take 30 or 40 more years before the Arctic was ice-free in the summer. Forecasts failed to account for the physics of lost solar energy reflection and warming ocean water.
The loss of Arctic ice has several effects. Ice reflects heat and solar energy back into space. With less ice cover, that heat energy is instead absorbed by the ocean, which warms and melts more ice. Currently, the Arctic region is the fastest-warming region on the planet, and the change in temperature will probably influence weather patterns here and in Europe. The heating and cooling of Arctic seawater has been affecting the jet stream – the river of air that flows from west to east high above the Earth’s surface – and has slowed it down.
The jet stream controls the formation and movement of storm systems, so when its movement slows, weather conditions persist for longer periods of time over the same area. They get “stuck.” “If you’re in a nice dry pattern with sunny skies, it’s great if it lasts for a few days. But if it lasts for a few weeks, well then you’re starting to talk about a drought. If you have a rainy pattern and it hangs around for a long time, then that becomes a situation that could lead to flooding.” Arctic warming will influence weather to the south during the late fall and winter. While it will probably result in severe weather this winter, it is impossible to predict when and where those events would occur.

**What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight
– it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
9/16/12 -

Volcano Webcams

Nicaragua ups volcano response as San Cristobal rumbles - Nicaragua boosted its responses to volcanic activity in the northwestern region Saturday, as the San Cristobal volcano acted up for the second time in a week. Authorities installed 43 radio communication stations along the Pacific coast to monitor San Cristobal and another volcano, Telica. The radio posts aim to "ensure improved monitoring of seismic and volcanic behavior in the area", enabling authorities to issue more accurate warnings sooner.
A number of towns near San Cristobal, located some 135 kilometers (83 miles) northwest of the capital, were evacuated last week after the volcano began rumbling, sending a column of smoke and ash high into the sky, before subsiding. On Saturday, the volcano again spewed "abundant gas emissions moving toward the northeast" and increased seismic tremor and sulfur concentrations. Sulfur dioxide monitoring showed levels of the compound - considered a measure of volcanic activity - were nearly double the readings from previous days. Last week's explosion caused "fractures on the southern wall of the volcano" and "blockages preventing gas from passing out of three of five vents situated on the south wall of the internal crater.'" Guatemala's Volcano of Fire had its strongest eruption in a decade on Thursday.

Japan finds another gap in its disaster readiness: Mount Fuji - When Toshitsugu Fujii became head of a Japanese task force on disaster response at Mount Fuji, he was confronted with a startling oversight. Japan had no plan in place to deal with a disaster in which an earthquake sparks a volcanic eruption at the country's most famous landmark.
A tremor "greatly increases" the chance of an eruption in Japan, which has experienced nearly 12,000 earthquakes since the magnitude 9.0 tremor that led to disaster on March 11, 2011. "They always forget about the volcanoes. The government has never included Mount Fuji in its earthquake scenarios."
Fujii's job is to change that. More than a year after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown that scarred a generation of Japanese, the government is still working to close the gaps in its disaster response. Scientists say that the 2011 earthquake may have increased the chances of Mount Fuji erupting. The disaster caused a series of tremors around the mountain, including a magnitude 6.4 quake directly beneath it that caused a 20 meter-long crack in its side and put pressure on the volcano's magma chamber. The volcano is active and if an eruption were to occur, it would potentially threaten a vast area including Tokyo, 100 km (62 miles) away. "Although there are no signs of any irregularities at present, we need to watch it very carefully for another two or three years."
"The government has to prepare for a logistical nightmare. They've said they are going to do something but they haven't got their act together so far." Part of the problem is the fractured nature of Japanese bureaucracy, with a division between the teams planning for earthquakes and eruptions. "We don't include an eruption at Mount Fuji in our earthquake scenarios because we simply don't know whether a quake would cause one or not," a Cabinet office spokesman said. The Cabinet in August set up a task force to draft a disaster response plan based on a hazard map drawn up in 2004. The map shows the areas likely to be affected by lava flows or an ash cloud and it sets priorities for evacuating the surrounding population.
The government has so far failed to set up sufficient defenses against even its own worst-case scenario. Under that scenario, the 2004 map suggests economic damage from an eruption would be 2.5 trillion yen ($32 billion). But it could be "several times" that. Critics of the Mount Fuji hazard map say it has omitted several potential consequences of an eruption, ignoring past events. This includes a partial collapse of the mountain, which could trigger a landslide and an enormous tsunami along Japan's south coast. "Most volcanoes only have one partial collapse in their lifetime, but Fuji has already had two in 20,000 years, meaning it cannot be ruled out as a possibility in the future."

In the Atlantic -
- Tropical storm Nadine was located about 775 mi. [1250 km] WSW of the Azores. No threat to land.

In the East Pacific -
- Tropical depression Kristy was located about 610 mi. [980 km] WNW of the southern tip of Baja California. Kristy is likely to become a remnant low this morning. Swells generated by Kristy will still affect portions of southern Baja California during the next day or so.
- Tropical storm Lane was located about 1170 mi [1885 km] WSW of the southern tip of Baja California. Lane is expected to become a hurricane today, with weakening expected on Tuesday. No threat to land.

In the Western Pacific -
- Typhoon Sanba was located approximately 75 nm southwest of Busan, South Korea. It will make a second and final landfall near the north Korea/Russia border.

Nadine strengthened into the eighth Atlantic hurricane, reaching the forecasted number of hurricanes predicted for the season.

Typhoon Sanba pounds South Korea - Typhoon Sanba, packing winds of 155 kilometres (97 miles) per hour, slammed into South Korea on Monday, bringing torrential rains across the country and shutting down flights and ferry services. Sanba - the third major typhoon to hit the Korean peninsula in two months - made landfall at the southern port of Yeosu shortly before midday (0300 GMT). Moving at around 35 kilometres per hour, the typhoon had pounded the South Korean island of Jeju overnight Sunday, leaving around 10,000 homes without power and damaging road networks. There were no immediate reports of any casualties.
As it crossed southwestern Japan on Sunday, the typhoon had earlier claimed one life and cut power to 100,000 households. "Although its power is diminishing due to the low sea temperature, and is expected to diminish even more after making landfall, it's still a powerful typhoon." Seoul authorities warned of heavy rainfall of nearly 300 millimetres (12 inches) in Jeju and southern coastal regions from Sunday to Monday night.
Severe storm alerts have been issued in southern regions, with the warnings likely to expand to the rest of the country in the afternoon. The typhoon is expected to move northeast across the peninsula and back out to sea over the North Korean port of Chongjin. More than 200 flights - mostly domestic - and all 88 ferry services across South Korea have been cancelled since Sunday. Some 2,000 ships have been taken out of the storm's path. About 1,100 residents in areas deemed vulnerable have been taken to shelters, while another 12,000 residents in other areas have been advised to evacuate.
Tens of thousands of officials have been on high alert, carrying out special inspections on the entire 15 airports across the nation. Thousands of schools in southern regions remained closed Monday. Typhoons Bolaven and Tembin, which struck the peninsula in late August, left more than 20 people dead in the South, damaging farmland and hundreds of houses and causing power cuts that affected millions of homes. North Korea's state media said Bolaven - the strongest typhoon to hit the peninsula for almost a decade - killed 59 people and left more than 26,000 people homeless.