Monday, December 24, 2012

Red alert for volcano in Chile - Chile has raised the alert level for the Copahue volcano to red, the highest possible. The volcano is in Argentina's south-western Neuquen province, near the Chilean border. It began spewing ash and gas on Saturday morning.
In Argentina, the authorities have told residents of local villages to monitor the situation. Many people have already left the area as a precaution. Ash has been raining down on both sides of the border.
The Chilean authorities raised the alert - first issued on Saturday - to the highest level in Biobio region after the Copahue volcano increased seismic activity overnight. Roads were being cleared for possible evacuation. The plume of smoke is about 1,500m (5,000ft) high and the wind is pushing it away from Argentina. Planes flying over the southern Andes have also been warned to avoid the area.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled last year due to the eruption of Puyehue volcano, in Chile. That eruption caused huge economic damage not only to property in the area but also to tourism in Bariloche and other resorts. The Copahue eruption comes at the height of the tourism season. Visitors from all over the world go to the area in the summer months to enjoy the mountains, lakes and also the Copahue and Caviahue thermal spas. (photo) Video

No updates on the 25th and 26th (unless there's something huge).
Have a very Merry (and safe) Christmas!

**Peace is the only battle worth waging.**
Albert Camus

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
12/23/12 -

U.S. Pacific Northwest - Experts say the region is not remotely ready for the kind of big earthquake they now know is likely. People often remember the calm, the quiet, how normal everything seemed before a disaster.
During the long seconds of a magnitude 9.0 Cascadia earthquake, the soft loose soils along the Columbia River could quickly convert to the consistency of liquid or quicksand. Buried water mains and sewer lines could crack, separate, or float to the surface, spilling their contents across roads, landscapes and waterways. Downtown, older brick-and-mortar buildings could shift and shake, shedding bricks and rooftops in piles of debris. In the flash of a few minutes, pretty much all of Clark County would be likely to find itself without power, without reliable roads and without safe water. And it could stay that way for months. Such devastation might seem unreal. But it's happened before -- across the globe, and also right here.
Just off the Pacific coast -- about 50 miles out to sea, and stretching from Northern California to British Columbia -- a 700-mile fault marks where the Juan de Fuca geologic plate is sliding under the North America plate. The process, which started about 20 million years ago, is pushing North America over Juan de Fuca at a rate of about 1.5 inches a year. Rock from the dipping, or subducting, plate melts as it moves under the continent, feeding the volcanic arc that includes Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood and Mount Rainier.
Pressure also builds up along the fault. The plates don't move smoothly but tend to stick and lock against one another, resisting movement until the fault suddenly slips, creating deep and potentially very deadly earthquakes. There's no way to predict exactly when the fault will move again. The last time it happened was just over 300 years ago -- when the entire 700-mile stretch slipped in the span of about five minutes, creating a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and a massive tsunami recorded in Japanese history as occurring Jan. 26, 1700.
Geologists have uncovered evidence of similarly sized quakes in the region in 1310 AD, 810 AD, 400 AD, 170 BC and 600 BC. There may have been more, but it can be hard to find evidence of earthquakes in the rock record. Because of that, scientists continue to debate how often the fault ruptures. Some think it happens about every 500 years; others think it's more like every 250 years. "We've gone past that 250-year time scale already."
Analysis ranks the 25-year probability, vulnerability and risk rating for a strong quake -- if not a full 9.0 Cascadia quake -- as high. Every year, the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network records about 2,000 earthquakes in Washington and Oregon. Most are shallow quakes with magnitudes of less than 3.0. Larger shallow quakes are far less frequent but can be dangerous. Interplate quakes can cause even more damage. Scientists think both of those types of earthquakes happen at a rate of about one per 50 years in the Pacific Northwest.
Then there's a Cascadia quake, which would be a subduction zone earthquake. It's hard to tell how much damage a 9.0 quake like that would cause, but a report by the Department of Natural Resources suggests the damage could go well into billions of dollars and injure or possibly kill thousands of people. "Big picture for a Cascadia (earthquake) … we're definitely looking at years before we're made whole again. If you look at (Hurricanes) Katrina and Sandy, at the Japanese earthquake -- the damage from those is very similar to what we could experience in the Pacific Northwest."
Scientists didn't understand the potential of the Cascadia fault until the 1980s, and that information didn't reach the general public until about 1993. "It's incredible because there's a huge whopping fault that stretches from North California to Canada, and it wasn't until the late '80s that scientists reached a consensus on the hazard. It wasn't until about 2000 that scientists first reached a consensus that the (potential) earthquake could be a magnitude 8 or 9." And while that information was under debate, buildings, pipelines and other structures continued to go up, based on construction standards that said the region was relatively geologically stable.
"We keep upping the ante, we keep making buildings stronger and stronger, and then another earthquake comes along, things are destroyed and we have to change everything again." "Nobody's code anticipates Cascadia." In a Cascadia quake, restaurants, businesses and condominiums -- as well as water, sewer and power lines -- near the Columbia River could end up shifting, rising or sinking in the liquefied soils.
Another process, called lateral spreading, could also create hazardous conditions. That happens when liquefied soils move down a slope, spreading the ground surface. During the 2011 quake in Tokyo, the ground spread by 5 feet in spots and moved a river. Risk assessment maps show swaths of land around Hazel Dell, central Vancouver and La Center with soft soils that could be vulnerable to landslides or other hazards from amplified shaking. Throughout the county, and in downtown Vancouver, older buildings -- especially those made of unreinforced masonry -- could easily shed bricks, glass and roofing, or collapse outright during the shaking.
Parts of the ground could rise up unevenly, cracking and shifting roadways. Bridges, even if they didn't collapse, could take weeks to assess and likely longer to repair, as would train tracks and other transportation networks. "It is difficult to identify a part of the community that is not vulnerable to an earthquake. People, buildings, emergency services, hospitals, transportation lifelines, and water and wastewater utilities are susceptible to the effects of an earthquake. In addition, electric and natural gas utilities and dams have a potential to be damaged."
In the aftermath of a Cascadia quake, it's likely that power could be out for weeks, perhaps months. Bridges could be similarly out of service, roads and train tracks damaged. It's a good idea to prepare an emergency kit with several days' worth of food, a gallon of water per day per person, flashlights, blankets, a first-aid kit and even a generator. "What people really need to be thinking about is how to be as self-sufficient as possible. It's very fair to point at what's happened with Hurricane Sandy. You need to have a plan and be ready to be an island unto yourself."
Some parts of New York and New Jersey that were hit by Superstorm Sandy in late October are still without power. That's a lesson if you think the standard suggestion of a three-day supply of food and water is more than enough. "If you look at Sandy, several days past landfall and there were still people who couldn't get basic supplies."
Water is especially important, even if you have a well. "One thing that happens in earthquakes is that they change the groundwater system. They can increase or decrease the flow in a well. In 2001 in the Nisqually quake, several wells in Eastern Washington dried up."
Another bit of advice is to make sure your gas tank is always half-full. It's good for the car, but it also gives you some mobility if all the infrastructure fails. "Unfortunately it's usually a minority of people that prepare. The lesson with Hurricane Sandy, with Katrina, with Japan, is that it could happen to us. It's not just on TV. It's a reality in the Pacific Northwest." (map and photos)

New Zealand strong quake risk now 2% - It is almost 12 months since the last major earthquake in Canterbury and scientists say the risk of another large one is reducing all the time.

In the North Arabian Sea -
Tropical Cyclone Four was located approximately 280 nm southeast of Cape Guardafui, Somalia. Landfall is expected to be along the northern Somalia coast.

Tropical Cyclone 4 Threatens Somalia - The recently developed tropical cyclone will threaten portions of Somalia with heavy rain early this week. Tropical Cyclone 4 developed Saturday night, nearly 600 miles east-southeast of Cape Guardafui, Somalia. As of Sunday morning, EST, this system had sustained winds near 45 mph.
This cyclone was moving westward at about 18 mph. Some slight strengthening is possible through Monday morning before weakening will occur. This strengthening could allow the system to become a moderate to perhaps strong tropical storm briefly. Rainfall from this system will likely reach Somalia starting Monday afternoon and will continue through Tuesday. Rainfall amounts will generally average 2-4 inches (50-100 mm), with local amounts exceeding 6 inches (150 mm). For some areas, this would approach or even equal the normal annual rainfall.
Widespread strong winds are not expected to impact Somalia as the system is expected to weaken, perhaps even dissipate, prior to making landfall early Tuesday. Still, a few wind gusts of 30-40 mph (50-65 kph) may occur, especially at the coast.

Cyclone's remnants to drench northern New Zealand - A deluge of rain was expected in the north of the North Island last night, with 70 to 100mm forecast to fall in Auckland, Northland and the Coromandel Peninsula. Despite being downgraded to "former" cyclone, Evan continues to move southwest towards New Zealand.


A new analysis of temperature records indicates that the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming nearly twice as fast as previously thought. US researchers say they found the first evidence of warming during the southern hemisphere's summer months.
They are worried that the increased melting of ice as a result of warmer temperatures could contribute to sea-level rise. Previously scientists were unable to draw any conclusions from the Byrd data as the records were incomplete. The new work used a computer model of the atmosphere and a numerical analysis method to fill in the missing observations. The results indicate an increase of 2.4C in average annual temperature between 1958 and 2010.
"What we're seeing is one of the strongest warming signals on Earth. This is the first time we've been able to determine that there's warming going on during the summer season." It might be natural to expect that summers even in Antarctica would be warmer than other times of the year. But the region is so cold, it is extremely rare for temperatures to get above freezing.
This is a critical threshold. "The fact that temperatures are rising in the summer means there's a prospect of WAIS not only being melted from the bottom as we know it is today, but in future it looks probable that it will be melting from the top as well." Previous research indicated that the WAIS is being warmed by the ocean, but this new work suggests that the atmosphere is playing a role as well.
The scientists say that the rise in temperatures has been caused by changes in winds and weather patterns coming from the Pacific Ocean. "We're seeing a more dynamic impact that's due to climate change that's occurring elsewhere on the globe translating down and increasing the heat transportation to the WAIS." But he was unable to say with certainty that the greater warming his team found was due to human activities. "The jury is still out on that. That piece of research has not been done. My opinion is that it probably is, but I can't say that definitively."
Whatever the source, the researchers are concerned that this warming can lead to more melting and have direct and indirect effects on global sea levels. The direct impacts are the run-off of melting waters into the sea. But the scientists say this is unlikely to happen for several decades because much of the water is likely to percolate down the ice sheet and refreeze. (map & photos)

Cargo Continues Moving on the Mississippi River, but Perhaps Not for Long - A Midwestern drought has brought the river, one of the world's largest navigable inland waterways, to water levels so low that they threaten to shut down shipping.
Nebraska - A Nebraska natural resources district may impose limits on irrigation in the wake of drought conditions and declining water levels.
Kansas - Dry conditions are causing significant drops in the water levels in Kansas lakes. The drought in many respects is more severe than the droughts of the 1930s and 1950s.