Friday, January 4 , 2013

Australia braces for wicked weekend heatwave - There are fears a ferocious heat wave affecting 70 per cent of Australia will lead to more bushfires and heat-related illnesses.
Much of Australia will be on high bushfire alert this weekend as a prolonged heatwave pushes across the country, with RECORD TEMPERATURES already experienced in some centres. A number of bushfires are being fought in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Authorities in those states are urging people to prepare themselves and their properties in case of fire. Firefighters in Tasmania fear some houses have been lost at the township of Dunnalley near Hobart. Health bodies are urging people to drink plenty of water and stay out of the heat.
While heatwaves are a normal part of the Australian summer, the current blast is UNUSUAL FOR THE LARGE AREA IT IS COVERING. "More than 70 per cent of the continent is currently experiencing heatwave conditions ..Severe heatwave conditions across the interior of Australia are set to continue for a while yet." Among the hottest parts of the country on Friday were Wudinna, on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, which hit 48.2C. Adelaide reached 45C and Hobart reached a record 41.8C - one degree hotter than the record set in 1976.
Conditions at times on Friday reached the catastrophic level developed after the Black Saturday fires in Victoria, with up to 40 fires burning around the state. "We reached catastrophic fire danger ratings at times during this afternoon. I don't think we're quite out of the woods yet."
But it is the Dunnalley and Forcett fires, which the 100 fire crews fighting them say they can't contain, that are causing most concern ahead of a mild southerly change due in Hobart around midnight. "We are throwing everything that we are able to at incidents as they occur. We've got to get through today, then we get a bit of a lull and then we're back into it again next week." Victoria's Fire Services said Saturday would be a fire day of significance in northeastern Victoria. Temperatures across the state have tipped past 40C in many communities with extreme fire danger ratings.
A fire in a pine plantation at Mt Richmond in the state's southwest is a "major concern". The Country Fire Authority issued an emergency warning for the fire, which could affect the Lake Monbeong and Swan Lake camp grounds. The fire has no major settlement in its path. However, farming communities could be threatened, and people considering leaving should head for Portland.
The bureau of meteorology says the scorching heat bearing down across many states will continue "unabated" well into next week. Surf lifesavers are expecting to have to rescue hundreds of beachgoers this weekend as swimmers escape the heatwave in NSW.

**In the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.**
Albert Camus

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
1/3/13 -

Volcano Webcams

New submarine volcanic eruption off Turkey's coast suspected - A new submarine volcanic eruption might have recently started off Turkey's west coast in the Marmaris Sea between the mainland and the Greek Island of Simi near Rhodes.
Scientists have found evidence of 2 active vents at about 200 m water depth along a north-south trending fissure of 2.5-3 km length. A rise in sea temperature was detected which suggests that lava might be erupting from the vents. It might take 1-3, or 20 years for the volcano to surface, if at all.
The area is located at the eastern end of the volcanically active Hellenic Arc and volcanic activity here would not be a huge surprise. Possibly preceding the eruption, as magma was rising through the crust, the area was affected by a series of seismic swarms during the past months. A previous submarine eruption already occurred here in 2009. (map)

In the Western Pacific -
Tropical storm 01w (Sonamu) was located approximately 595 nm east-southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

In the South Indian Ocean -
Category 1 Tropical Cyclone 07s (Dumile) was located approximately 525 nm north of La Reunion.

NASA's satellites captured visible and infrared data on Tropical Cyclone Dumile as it slammed into the islands of La Reunion and Mauritius in the Southern Indian Ocean. Both La Reunion and Mauritius posted advisories.
Warnings were up for La Reunion on Jan. 3. The territory is on red alert and a local advisory is in effect for high winds, heavy rain, high ocean swells and rough surf along the coasts of the island. The public was advised not to venture near rivers and other water courses because of rough seas. An improvement in weather was expected on Jan. 4.
On Jan. 3 at 0900 UTC (4 a.m. EST/U.S.) Tropical Cyclone Dumile was centered just 85 nautical miles (97.8 miles/157.4 km) northwest of La Reunion. Dumile's maximum sustained winds were near 65 knots (75 mph/120.4 kph) making it a category one hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Tropical-storm-force winds extended about 95 nautical miles (109.3 miles/176 km) from the center, meaning that La Reunion island was getting battered by them.
Cyclone Dumile is moving southward at 13 knots (15 mph/24 kph) and is churning up very rough seas with wave heights up to 34 feet (10.3 meters). Dumile continued to move south and passed west of La Reunion, Jan. 3, before turning toward the southeast and weakening. Forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center expect that Dumile will begin transitioning into an extra-tropical storm in two days.
Cyclone Dumile cuts power to thousands on French Reunion island - Thousands of homes on France's Reunion island remain without power after being hit by Indian Ocean Cyclone Dumile. Both of the island's airports closed, and shipping was at a standstill.
Meteorologists say the worst is now probably over but people have been urged to stay indoors with torrential rains continuing. Winds of up to 180 kilometres per hour (110 miles per hour) and torrential rain caused extensive damage to the electricity network after cyclone Dumile passed within 90 kilometres of the island's west coast at around 0900 GMT.

Philippines - Tropical storm "Auring" (Sonamu) made landfall in the southern tip of Palawan on Friday morning. PAGASA said public storm warning signal no. 2 remains hoisted over southern Palawan, while the rest of the province is under signal no. 1. The storm is the first weather disturbance to enter the country this year.
Auring has maintained its strength, still packing maximum winds of 65 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 80 kph. As of 5 a.m., it was located 220 kilometers southwest of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Auring, which had triggered flooding in some parts of northern Mindanao, was moving west at 28 kph. With this speed and direction, Auring will be out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility this afternoon.
"Residents living in low lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signal #2 and #1 are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides. Likewise, those living in coastal areas under public storm warning signal #2 are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by this tropical cyclone." Fishing boats and other small sea crafts are advised not to venture out into the seaboards of northern and central Luzon and the western seaboards of southern Luzon due to the northeast monsoon. Estimated rainfall is 10 to 20 millimeters per hour (heavy - intense) within the storm's 300-km diameter.
A new cluster of clouds over the Pacific Ocean is expected to intensify into a low pressure area (LPA) and possibly a cyclone. The cluster of clouds may enter PAR as early as Saturday. The potential cyclone is forecast to hit typhoon-battered Mindanao again. PAGASA forecasters explained that the current orientation of the sun has created conditions favorable to the formation of cyclones in the waters off the region. (satellite photo)


Australia - Country Fire Authority site buckles on total fire ban day as mercury climbs towards 44C in parts of Victoria, 41C in Melbourne.
Victoria's fire warning website failed its first major test of the summer when it was unable to meet demand and crashed. The Acting Premier and Emergency Services Minister said the website was receiving 700 hits a second on Friday - double what had been estimated - as anxious Victorians tried to seek information on a day of extreme bushfire risk.
Victorian residents claim they are still unable to load the state's fire warning website despite a top fire official saying its problems had been fixed. Worried Victorians have flocked to the Country Fire Authority (CFA) website in big numbers, slowing the site to a crawl this morning, leaving residents in fire danger zones furious on a total fire ban day. It comes as a large fire is burning out-of-control through bushland in Victoria’s southwest, and in the state's east.
An emergency warning was issued for the Kentbruck area, about 400km southwest of Melbourne at 3.08pm. After midday, the Fire Services Commissioner said the site's traffic capacity had been increased in the wake of the morning problems. "It is good to say that we have fixed it. We have given it the capability fix and we will certainly monitor it all day and increase capability as we go." However, Herald Sun readers say the CFA website is still causing them grief, with many still unable to load the page despite the first fire warning being issued.
The temperature cracked 40C by noon in one part of the state with many more hovering on 39C, as the mercury climbed towards 44C in the northwest. Dartmoor, in the state’s west, was the first to reach 40C, and by 4pm it had rocketed to 41.8C with Mildura jutting ahead at 43.4C and Nhill 42.7C. Melbourne reached 40.2C at 3.20pm with the temperatures earlier rising about 2C every hour. Melburnians are bracing for a blistering 41C, with strong winds expected across many parts of the state including northerly winds of 50km/h or stronger to hit the city.
After a warm night, the mercury soared passed 30C in several places across the state this morning, including Warrnambool which at 9am hit 34C and reached 33.2C at Avalon. Meanwhile, the extreme heat was expected to throw Melbourne's train network into chaos after a heat-buckled rail line caused a train to derail yesterday afternoon. Metro Trains admitted today's temperatures would test the network amid fears of mass disruptions.
In further embarrassment to the State Government, the CFA's Fire Ready app was this morning showing incorrect fire danger ratings on mobile phones despite 5000 new users signing up for it yesterday. A Badger Creek resident said the meltdown was a disgrace. "I live in a high fire risk area and I have no idea if a fire is on top of me. It's a serious joke. It's unbelievable that this can happen...Technical difficulties is an understatement. With all the money they've spent on this thing and all the time they've had to get it right, it's just crazy. It's a disgrace."
A CFA spokesman said people shouldn’t be relying on the website alone, but should check its Twitter and Facebook accounts and phone the Bushfire Information Line if they needed advice. Angry residents took to Facebook to voice concerns about the website access. "Not a good sign if your VITAL app and website are not functioning on the very days we need them most."
Meanwhile, Alpine National Park fuel loads - the build up of vegetation growth - are high and a court decision to ban cattle grazing will make the situation worse. "I believe there could be catastrophic damage if we don't get on top of the fuel land... there will be terrible consequences and to that end I say any tool to manage fuel loads is good."
Authorities warn residents in bushfire areas to have their survival plans ready, and all Victorians to check on the young and the elderly. An "extreme" fire danger rating has been issued for the Wimmera, South West and Central regions. The alert is "severe" elsewhere. Warnings have been issued for parts of Tasmania, with residents in some parts of the state advised to evacuate.
The strong northerly winds intensify the fire risk. "With these sorts of conditions, any fire is going to be uncontrollable, unpredictable and very fast-moving." In 2009, 374 deaths were attributed to the week-long Black Saturday heatwave.
One of Tasmania's most popular tourist areas has been cut off after police closed a major highway likely to hit by a bushfire. The Arthur Highway has been closed east of Hobart as one of the state's largest blazes remains uncontrolled in worsening conditions.
The road is the only way in and out of the Tasman Peninsula and its main attraction, Port Arthur. The fire, at Forcett, is expected to affect the highway later on Friday afternoon as temperatures soar over 40C. Residents in the small communities of Copping, Boomer Bay, Dunalley, Connellys Marsh, Primrose Sands and Carlton River are being told to leave and head to refuges set up nearby.
Tasmania's other major fire, near the Mt Field National Park northwest of Hobart, also remains out of control with people living in communities including Broad River, Jones River and Ellendale being told to relocate. The temperature in Hobart has hit 40.1C with wind gusts up to 50km/h forecast.
"This is an extremely bad day. Yesterday is probably as bad as we've had since the '06/07 fires when we had disastrous fires in many areas of the state. Today's got the potential certainly to be worse. People can get killed under these conditions and have been killed under these conditions." The fires have closed Mt Field National Park and many of the state's most popular walking tracks.
Hobart is experiencing ITS HOTTEST DAY ON RECORD - The island capital hit 41.3C at 1.53pm (AEDT), beating a previous high of 40.8C set in January 1976. That record had stood since 1899, when the mercury hit 40.1C. Records have been kept in Tasmania since 1883. The Bureau of Meteorology says it isn't sure what the new record will be because the temperature is unlikely to peak before 4pm. Hobart's overnight minimum was a January record - 23.4C.