Friday, October 19, 2012

The UK has experienced its "WEIRDEST" WEATHER ON RECORD in the past few months, scientists say. The DRIEST SPRING FOR OVER A CENTURY gave way to the WETTEST RECORDED APRIL TO JUNE in a dramatic turnaround NEVER DOCUMENTED BEFORE.
Experts warned the UK must plan for periodic swings of drought conditions and flooding. The warning came from the Environment Agency, Met Office and Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH). There is no close modern precedent for the extraordinary switch in river flows. The nearest comparison was 1903 but this year was TRULY REMARKABLE.
What was also remarkable - and also fortunate - was that more people did not suffer from flooding. Indeed, one major message of the briefing was that society has been steadily increasing its resilience to floods. 4,500 properties had been flooded this year. "But if you look back to 2007 when over 55,000 properties were flooded, we were relatively lucky - if lucky is the right word - for the impacts we saw this summer. The rainfall patterns affected different areas - and also there were periods of respite between the rain which lessened the impact."
53,000 properties would have been flooded this year without flood defences. In total, 190,000 properties had received flood protection in recent years. Continuing to invest in flood defenses will be a "challenge", after government cuts to planned projects. "We have to get our heads round the possibility now that we're going to have to move very quickly from drought to flood - with river levels very high and very low over a short period of time. We used to say we had a traditional flood season in winter - now often it's in summer. This is an integrated problem - there's no one thing that's going to solve it. The situation is changing all the time."
The CEH said: "Rainfall charts show no compelling long-term trend - the annual precipitation table shows lots of variability." If temperatures rise as projected in future, that would lead to warmer air being able to carry more moisture to fall as rain. This year's conditions were partly caused by a move to a negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation which would be likely to lead to more frequent cold, drier winters - like the 1960s - and also wetter summers for 10-20 years. "Longer term we will see a trend to drier summers but superimposed on that we will always see natural variability."

**If you want to make your dreams come true,
the first thing you have to do is wake up.**
J.M. Power

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
10/18/12 -

Years after big quake, Turkish fault still slip-sliding - The magnitude 7.4 Izmit earthquake broke part of the North Anatolian fault, killing more than 17,000 people. In the years since, scientists have found, the two sides of the fault have started to creep past each other again at rates up to about 27 millimeters annually, most likely building up stress to the west near Istanbul. “We’re expecting a destructive earthquake in the near future in Istanbul. The creeping makes additional stress on the fault.”
When one part of the fault ruptures in a quake, it releases stress in that area but transfers some of it to neighboring areas. Close to Istanbul, the fault has not broken in a major quake since 1766. Seismologists consider it ripe for an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 or greater. Decades ago, scientists discovered that faults like the North Anatolian and California’s San Andreas — besides releasing energy in big jolts as quakes — can move slowly and steadily, or creep. But researchers haven’t been able to figure out what physical process within the rocks makes the creep happen, and how creep begins again after most of the accumulated stress is released in a big quake. “There aren’t many places in the world where this kind of thing has been observed."
The Izmit earthquake broke the ground in a sudden and violent 45 seconds, but even after that, the fault continued to slide along a stretch about 60 kilometers long. This creep began immediately after the 1999 quake and continued at least through June 2012 - THE LONGEST PERIOD EVER OBSERVED AFTER A MAJOR QUAKE. Creep along other major faults may similarly have been kicked off by a big quake, the scientists say. Deep drilling at the San Andreas has shown that the fault zone contains weak minerals such as clays, which allow rocks to slide past each other more easily.
At Izmit, the creep rate is slowing down. It may eventually reach a steady state of very slow creep, or might even halt. For now, though, “the fault creep still seems to be progressing at a higher rate than before the quake. This is an interesting result, but not entirely unexpected.”

In the Western Pacific -
- Typhoon 22w (Prapiroon) was located approximately 270 nm southeast of Tokyo, Japan. The final warning has been issued on this system.
- Tropical storm 23w, Maria, was located about 875 nm north-northwest of Wake Island.

Post-tropical storm Rafael blew past Newfoundland, Canada, but whipped up wild seas Thursday that crashed through a breakwater in Trepassey on the southeastern coast of the island. (photos and video)

Shortly after Tropical Cyclone Nina (Prapiroon) exited the Philippine Area of Responsibility Wednesday night, state weather forecasters had started monitoring another potential cyclone.


Drought hits northern rice farmers in Sri Lanka - Officials in northern Sri Lanka's Vavuniya District say 60 percent of the rice harvest could be lost if the dry weather continues.

Drought brings record US cost for crop insurance subsidy - U.S. taxpayers could pay a RECORD $15 billion to subsidize the privately run crop insurance program this year, double the recent cost, due to devastating drought in the Farm Belt, say an array of agricultural economists.

Minnesota - Twin Cities drought worsens to severe status. The Twin Cities metro area has been upgraded from "moderate drought" to "severe drought" in the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report which takes into account the latest data over the last week.

Disaster Trifecta 40,000 Years Ago - Climate Shifts, Geomagnetic Field Reversal and a Super Volcano. Researchers from Germany and Switzerland did an analysis on sediment cores from the Black Sea and concluded that, for a brief period during the last ice age, a compass at the Black Sea would have pointed south instead of north. And that wasn't the worst thing going on around the same time.
41,000 years ago, say the researchers, a complete and rapid reversal of the geomagnetic field occurred. Along with the Black Sea sediment cores, they look at other studies in the North Atlantic, the South Pacific and Hawaii, and say it proves that this polarity reversal was a global event. If accurate, what is remarkable is the speed of the reversal: "The field geometry of reversed polarity, with field lines pointing into the opposite direction when compared to today's configuration, lasted for only about 440 years, and it was associated with a field strength that was only one quarter of today's field. The actual polarity changes lasted only 250 years. In terms of geological time scales, that is very fast."
During that period, the field was even weaker, with only 5% of today's field strength. As a consequence, the Earth nearly lost its protective shield against hard cosmic rays, leading to significantly increased radiation exposure. Besides giving evidence for a geomagnetic field reversal 41,000 years ago, the researchers say they discovered numerous abrupt climate changes during the last ice age in the analyzed cores from the Black Sea, as was already known from the Greenland ice cores.
They say that the largest volcanic eruption on the Northern hemisphere in the past 100,000 years - 39,400 years ago, the eruption of a super volcano in the area of today's Phlegraean Fields near Naples, Italy - is also documented within the sediments from the Black Sea. The ashes of this eruption, during which about 350 cubic kilometers of rock and lava were ejected, were distributed over the entire eastern Mediterranean and up to central Russia.

Feverishly hot ocean surface waters potentially reaching more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) may have helped cause the greatest mass extinction in Earth's history, researchers say. "We may have found the hottest time the world has ever had."
The mass extinction at the end of the Permian Era about 250 million years ago was the greatest die-off in Earth's history. The cataclysm killed as much as 95 percent of the planet's species. One key factor behind this disaster was probably catastrophic volcanic activity in what is now Siberia that spewed out as much as 2.7 million square miles (7 million square kilometers) of lava, an area nearly as large as Australia. These eruptions might have released gases that damaged Earth's protective ozone layer.
After the end-Permian mass extinction came a time "called the 'dead zone. It's this 5-million-year period where there's no recovery, where there is a very low diversity of life." The dead zone apparently experienced a serious case of global warming, but the extremes this global warming reached were uncertain. The researchers focused on isotopes or atomic variants of oxygen within fossils. The researchers analyzed strange eel-like creatures known as conodonts, which are known mainly by their elaborate mouthparts. "People always thought the end-Permian extinctions were related to temperature increases, but they never measured the temperature then in much detail before, since it involves a lot of hard work looking at these microfossils."
The fruits of this labor? "We've got a case of extreme global warming, THE MOST EXTREME EVER SEEN IN THE LAST 600 MILLION YEARS. We think the main reason for the dead zone after the end-Permian is a very hot planet, particularly in equatorial parts of the world." The upper part of the ocean may have reached about 100 degrees F (38 degrees C), and sea-surface temperatures may have exceeded 104 degrees F (40 degrees C). For comparison, today's average annual sea-surface temperatures around the equator are 77 to 86 degrees F (25 to 30 degrees C).
"Photosynthesis starts to shut down at about 35 degrees C [95 degrees F], and plants often start dying at temperatures above 40 degrees C [104 degrees F]. This would explain why there's not much fossil record of plants at the end-Permian - for instance, there are no peat swamps forming, no coal-forming whatsoever. This was a huge, devastating extinction." Without plants to absorb carbon dioxide, more of this heat-trapping gas would stay in the atmosphere, driving up temperatures further. "There are other ways of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, but the planet lost a key way for millions of years."
These lethally hot temperatures may explain why the regions at and near the equator were nearly uninhabited. Nearly all fish and marine reptiles were driven to higher latitudes, and those creatures that remained were often smaller, making it easier for them to shed any heat from their bodies. "I'm sure there will be questions as to whether sea-surface temperatures really did get this extreme. But I think extreme temperatures would explain quite a lot with the fossils we see showing major losses of animal and plant life." These findings show that global warming can directly cause extinctions. Still, although the world is currently warming, "we're not going to get anywhere near the level seen after the end-Permian. We need to worry about global warming, but it's not going to get to this stage."


BAY AREA FIREBALL - On the night of Oct. 17th, many people near San Francisco saw a slow-moving fireball exploding in the sky around 07:45 pm PDT. Witnesses report bright flashes of light and sonic booms that shook houses. "We don't know yet if the end point [of the meteor's flight] was over land or water." Although Earth is nearing a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the Orionid meteor shower, this fireball was probably not an Orionid. The timing and direction of the meteor do not seem to match the Orionids. (video)

GROUND AND SKY CURRENTS: A medium-speed (~500 km/s) solar wind speed is buffeting Earth's magnetic field, igniting auroras around the Arctic Circle. Wednesday night at the Polarlightcenter in Lofoten, Norway, the reverberating magnetic field induced electrical currents in the ground. "This was our sixth night in a row with clear skies and auroras" - the odds of a light show are high. Arctic sky watchers should remain alert for auroras on Oct. 18-19, especially during the hours around local midnight.


Federal health officials are inviting the public to weigh in on whether research on H5N1 avian influenza viruses, including strains modified in the lab to make them more transmissible, is risky enough to require new safety regulations and precautions.