Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Australia - The CFA has contained a blaze that was threatening homes in a town north of Melbourne - but warned sudden wind changes could re-ignite the fire.
Nine tankers and two fire-bombing aircraft battled the grassfire, which was first reported in Wallan, about 50km north of the capital. The CFA had earlier warned the fire could be a risk to lives and homes, as it headed north. Early reports suggested the blaze had impacted homes on Rowes Lane and more properties could be in its path. But at 3.30pm, the CFA downgraded its warning to a Watch and Act.
The fire, which has ripped through 5ha of bushland, has been contained, but could change. "Residents need to be wary of a change in weather conditions with sudden wind changes potentially reigniting the fire...Bulldozers are now on site helping with the clean-up within the containment line." It comes after arsonists lit fires in Melbourne's northwest, with several homes and an aged-care centre coming under threat from a deliberately lit scrub fire in Keilor East. The blaze at the Maribyrnong Valley Parklands burnt more than 10 hectares. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade sent 40 firefighters to the scene, who stopped the fire spreading into homes.
The early morning inferno follows a destructive fire that gutted eight homes west of Ballarat last night on the most destructive fire day since Black Saturday. Several hundred residents from the area, including some who lost property and livestock, faced local government and fire authorities at a fiery public meeting at Snake Valley Community Hall. "What happened to the text messages?" one resident said. "What are the people in the so called grey areas supposed to do? Burn?"
There were also containing concerns about the capabilities of the CFA incident website. "It crashed on me 4 times in 20 minutes," one man said. Ohters received mobile alerts far too late to leave had the wind turned. "We got the SMS two hours after the fire started, we could well have lost everything of the wind turned around." Between the tears and anger, there was also praise for tireless volunteer crew who worked through the night to save what they could.
The department of primary industries will be working with farmers in coming days to bury animals that died in the fires. The grassfires burned through 1150ha in the area around Chepstowe and Carngham. Earlier reports suggested up to 20 homes were destroyed, but police have revised that number to eight. The number of livestock lost was between 600 and 1000, but losses could increase. A CFA spokesman said two hay sheds had also been destroyed as well as 12 pieces of farming machinery. A ute used for harvesting operations in a paddock is believed to have caused the blaze as it drove through open land causing sparks. Investigations are continuing but it is believed to be accidental.
The fire swept through the Chepstowe area, 30km west of Ballarat, about 6pm, destroying the historic Carngham Station At least six people were taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation. One father and son were lucky to escape with their lives after they were forced to abandon their car and run to take refuge in a dam. The fast-moving fire near Ballarat, one of 13 burning across Victoria last night, was fanned by southwesterly winds.
Meanwhile, the 6651-hectare Kentbruck blaze in southwest Victoria remains out of control but is not threatening any communities. The CFA said light rains overnight allowed firefighters to take a well-deserved break. They will resume backburning today in anticipation of wind changes and warmer temperatures on Friday. The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed Monday was Australia's hottest day ever, with a national average maximum temperature of 40.33 degrees. However the record was likely to last just 24 hours. There may be some respite for a few days before the weather is expected to heat up again on Friday. "Conditions do become very mild Wednesday and Thursday in the state, that's a real opportunity for us to get on the upper hand at the fire at Kentbruck."
In Tasmania, emergency workers continue a grim search through rubble for bodies after Friday's inferno, which destroyed at least 128 homes, mainly on the Tasman Peninsula. "It will be a period of time to come yet before we're in a position to say that no one has died as a result of these fires." As today's cool change brought relief to much of the state after yesterday's heat, residents at Mount Hotham in the state's alpine region were stunned to see snowflakes falling this morning. Despite this, at 1pm, a smallgrass fire was burning south of Seymour, about 100km north of Melbourne, with 12 tankers battling to put the blaze out. Residents in the town of Glenaroua have been advised by the CFA to monitor the conditions. (photos & additional links)

**Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.
Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.**
Albert Camus

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -
5.0 CARLSBERG RIDGE (Indian Ocean) (multiple 4.0+ quakes also)
Continuing aftershocks in the Aegean Sea

Yesterday -
1/8/13 -

1/7/13 -

An earthquake centered beneath the Aegean Sea shook cities and islands in Turkey and Greece on Tuesday, causing panic in some areas but no injuries or damage. The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 (5.7 USGS), occurred at 4:16 p.m. (1416 GMT) off the coast from Turkey’s northwestern Canakkale province.
The earthquake was felt in the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Izmir, and their environs. “It was one of the strongest earthquakes we have experienced,” the mayor of the Turkish island of Bozcaada off Canakkale said “There was some panic during the quake, but things have returned to normal and there is no damage.”
The Athens Geodynamic Institute in Greece put the magnitude at 5.8 and said the temblor occurred between the Greek islands of Lemnos and Lesvos, near the Turkish coast. The quake was mildly felt in Athens. The U.S. Geological Survey gave a preliminary magnitude of 5.7. Earthquakes are common in Turkey and Greece, both of which lie atop active fault lines.

Magnetic clues in earthquake prediction - Renewed efforts are being made to discover whether it might be possible to predict earthquakes by measuring magnetic pulses from electrical discharges in the earth. The idea is based on a theory that rock produces intense electrical currents when a quake is coming. The currents were huge. "They're on the order of 100,000 amperes for a magnitude 6 earthquake and a million amperes for a magnitude 7. It's almost like lightning, underground."
A team has spent millions of dollars putting out magnetometers along fault lines in California, Peru, Taiwan and Greece. The instruments can detect magnetic pulses from electrical discharges up to 16 kilometres away. California's San Andreas fault might have 10 pulses on a normal day, but before a large quake that background level of static electrical discharges should rise sharply. They had seen that pattern before half a dozen magnitude-5 and 6 quakes where they had been able to monitor the quake precursors.
Activity had risen to maybe 150 to 200 pulses a day, surging about two weeks before the quake, then dropping back to the background level until shortly before the fault slipped. A problem for the theory is that magnetic pulses can be caused by many things, such as lightning, solar flares, electrical interference from highway equipment, or even a nearby farmer's tractor engine. The theory had been around for some years, being considered exciting in the 1990s when a considerable amount of work was done to find out whether the phenomenon was present in most quakes. "The conclusion was that it really isn't."
A problem for the magnetic pulse theory was that it had been difficult, or impossible, to reproduce in the laboratory findings that were described in the literature. At the depths where quakes started there was a certain set of circumstances, such as pressure and the presence of saltwater fluids. When those circumstances were included in laboratory experiments, researchers did not get the phenomena indicated by the theory.
Many doubt that a way to predict quakes would be found in the near future. "If it weren't such a complex problem, we would likely have a solution by now. We see different things in different earthquakes. The crux is finding something that happens with every earthquake."

Volcano Webcams

January 7 activity report

Russian volcano erupting with gas, ash - A Russian volcano which started erupting in November continues to spew ash and smoke into the air. The Plosky Tolbachik volcano, in the Kamchatka Peninsula, last erupted in 1976. The plume of vapor and gas with a high gas content has stretched for 12 miles northeast of the volcano. The eruption has been given the "orange" color alert.

New Zealand - Bay volcano eruption risk over. GNS Science volcanologists have lowered the Volcanic Alert Level for White Island from 2 to 1, to mark the end of the current period of eruption. The aviation code has also changed from orange to yellow. The alert level increased in November when a lava dome was observed by tour operators. The dome has now stopped growing, which GNS believes signals the end of an eruption period. Temperatures of the dome have not changed since December 10.

In the Western Pacific -
Tropical depression 01w (Sonamu) was located approximately 305 nm west of Brunei. The system will be closely monitored for signs of regeneration.

In the South Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone 08s (Narelle) was located approximately 595 nm north-northeast of Learmonth, Australia. The eighth tropical cyclone to form during the Southern Indian Ocean cyclone season, it is the first tropical cyclone of 2013. It will move along the northwestern Australia coast with the potential to make landfall.

A tropical cyclone is developing off Western Australia's north coast and could impact communities in the next few days. Residents in coastal areas from Whim Creek to Onslow in the Pilbara region have been warned to prepare their homes and family for severe storms.
Tropical Cyclone Narelle is developing 900km north of Karratha and 1070km north north-east of Exmouth, and is moving west south-west at 11km per hour. The Bureau of Meteorology said the cyclone was expected to intensify in the next few days. "Gales with gusts to 100km per hour may develop in coastal areas between Whim Creek and Onslow on Friday morning as the cyclone moves closer to the coast, then extends west to Exmouth later on Friday. The cyclone is rapidly intensifying and is likely to develop into a severe tropical cyclone as it moves towards the Northwest Cape."
The State Emergency Service advises residents to review their family cyclone plan and know the community cyclone alert system. Residents have also been reminded to organise an emergency kit with a portable battery operated radio, torch, spare batteries and first aid kit.

Questions in Samoa over cause of flooding during cyclone Evan - Hundreds of people in Vaimauga in Samoa whose homes, properties and businesses were wiped away by flooding during Cyclone Evan want answers. They want the Government to investigate the cause of the flood. Residents say Cyclone Evan cannot be blamed entirely for the UNPRECEDENTED flooding that has left them with millions worth of damage.
Many claim that the flooding was the result of the Electric Power Corporation’s Alaoa Dam being left opened. One resident says he has lived in the area all his life, and hasn’t seen anything like it. He says there should be an investigation into what caused the flood. Repeated attempts to get a comment from EPC were unsuccessful.


Australia - The hardy folk in Oodnadatta have been baking in the South Australian outback since early November. Daily maximums have hovered around the mid 30s to the low 40s since then and over the past seven days have topped 45. A positively balmy top of just 40 has been forecast for Wednesday before the town heats up again with 47 degree maximums expected this Saturday and Sunday. Now that's a heatwave.
The current HOT SPELL HAS BEEN SETTING RECORDS for the town that also boasts Australia's highest recorded daytime temperature, 50.7 degrees back on January 2, 1960. "We're just taking it a day at a time. Everyone in Oodnadatta owns an airconditioner and they just run 24-7. We stay indoors, get up early, get up before the real heat of the day. If you want to go out, you do it after dark." Strangely, the severe conditions rarely deter the tourists. Many are international visitors and don't really appreciate just how hot it can get in the outback and the dangers that can present.
The town has gone quiet in recent days. "Everyone is just staying indoors, there's pretty much no movement around the town at all. We're frying, it's extremely hot. But you've just got to grin and bear it." Children in the town head for the school swimming pool while a local dam is also popular. Other than that, not much is happening.
However, the locals do enjoy a bit of chuckle at the reports of hot conditions in the cities to the south and the east. When the mercury topped 42 degrees in Sydney on Tuesday, in Oodnadatta it was 47, for the third day in a row. "If it was 41 or 42 we'd be putting jumpers on."
Firies scrambling before next wave of heat - Cooler weather has given firefighters a small window to battle more than 140 blazes before hot conditions bring more bushfires. Australia recorded its HOTTEST DAY EVER on Monday, with a national average temperature of 40.33 degrees Centigrade eclipsing the previous high of 40.17 degrees, set in 1972. Tuesday saw temperatures in eastern states rocket again, causing dozens of major bushfires and subjected millions of people to a sticky, sweltering night. Wednesday brought a cool change for many regions, but temperatures are forecast to rise again later in the week, putting emergency services back on high alert. The bushfire crisis has so far led to no loss of life but there is more hardship ahead. "The fact is we're still partway through what is clearly going to be a pretty difficult summer of bushfires."
Photo gallery
Australia wildfires: 'Worst yet to come' - Video

The US sweltered under its HOTTEST YEAR ON RECORD in 2012, breaking the previous yearly average by 0.6C (1F). Last year the average US temperature was 13C (55.3F) amid widespread drought and a mild winter.
Scientists said the size of the increase over the previous record year, 1998, was UNPRECEDENTED. "These records do not occur like this in an unchanging climate. And they are costing many billions of dollars." In 2012, 11 weather-related disasters caused at least $1bn (£623m) in damage, including "superstorm" Sandy and a months-long drought that hit almost two-thirds of the country.
The drought - the worst in the US since the 1950s - contributed to higher temperatures. Without enough moisture in the soil to evaporate into rainfall, air becomes hotter and dryer. Last year was 1.7C (3.2F) warmer than the average for the entire 20th Century. July broke the record for hottest month. Nineteen states set yearly heat records in 2012. Alaska, however, was cooler than average.


The brisk pace of flu activity in Canada and the United States has triggered concerns about possible oseltamivir (Tamiflu) shortages, with a Canadian announcement of the drug's release from the national stockpile and news that some parts of the United States may face low supplies of the liquid suspension for kids. Many Northern Hemisphere countries, from North America to temperate Asia, have seen rising flu activity in recent weeks, while cases ebbed or remained scarce in most of the rest of the world.

Public health deans condemn CIA vaccine ruse - Deans from 12 of the nation's schools of public health signed a letter sent to President Obama yesterday condemning the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA's) use of a vaccine front in the search for Osama Bin Laden. The CIA has admitted that it hired a Pakistani doctor to administer a hepatitis B vaccine to people in bin Laden's compound in an effort to obtain DNA samples from the residents. The plan is among a host of factors that has fueled recent waves of violence against polio vaccination workers. Militants have also used the attacks as retaliation for US drone strikes and have claimed that the workers are spies and that the vaccines represent a secret plan to sterilize Muslims.