Friday, February 1 , 2013

Will a megathrust earthquake strike the U.S. NW in 2013? - There were 4,800 earthquakes in the Northwest in 2012 and a RECORD "episodic tremor and slip" event – a string of deep mini-quakes running from Vancouver Island to below Centralia – over the summer, but does any of that mean we're likely to see the "big one" in 2013?
While the devastating megathrust quakes that happen every 300 to 500 years in that neck of the woods (those caused by the Juan De Fuca plate's grinding collision and subduction with the North American plate) are still impossible to predict, some clues may be emerging. Taken together, last year's quakes were "mild" since so few of them were big enough to be felt.
A STRING OF UNUSUAL QUAKES around the globe has the seismic community baffled. A big earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean six months ago was "very strange" because of its size and distance from the plate boundary. It showed "we can get earthquakes we really hadn't anticipated." In the past few years, China got hit with an earthquake on a fault that wasn't mapped, New Zealand suffered a "VERY RARE earthquake".
"There's a whole series of events in the last decade that give us the impression that WE KNOW LESS THAN EVER. We keep thinking that these are the specific risks we need to look out for and then Earthquakes happen that aren't the ones we thought were most likely to happen." Also, a roughly annual seismic event in the Northwest discovered 12 years ago – the "episodic tremor and slip,"or ETS – went wild last summer.
The boundary between the Juan De Fuca plate offshore and the North American plate runs under the Puget Sound area from California up to Canada. That's where we get the megathrust quakes of magnitude 9 or better. Below that danger zone, deeper in the subduction, is where the ETS happens. The tremor and slip this summer was "ONE OF THE BIGGEST ETS EVENTS YET MONITORED." And that had the experts "ever so slightly nervous."
"We thought we knew the pattern pretty well, that it would start down in the south Puget Sound, spread out for a couple of weeks, mainly going north under the Vancouver Island. This time broke the pattern ... It started in the north and came south. It is also THE BIGGEST EPISODE WE'VE SEEN YET. These are adding stress to the area where we expect damaging earthquakes to occur... so what does that mean? What do you do from a practical standpoint?"
When the ETS was first discovered, officials in Canada sent out earthquake warnings when one fired up because they worried these events signaled a potential quake. After a string of false alarms and new mysteries, they've stopped the practice. However, the question remains: Are these events associated with earthquakes and if so, how?
In simulations, after a big earthquake, the events stop for about 100 years and then start up again. And then one of them eventually will "spontaneously grow into a fast, dynamic rupture" – an earthquake. The problem is they can't tell which one will mutate into disaster. "You would hope that there would be something about them that would tip us off that we're getting near the end of the cycle and there was a big earthquake about to occur. In these simulations, we don't see anything in and of itself that presages an earthquake."
The Cascadia subduction zone, which stretches from northern California to Vancouver Island, has not experienced a major seismic event since it ruptured in 1700, an 8.7–9.2 magnitude earthquake that shook the region and created a tsunami that reached Japan. Earlier this year, however, earthquakes in Mexico and Costa Rica occurred in areas that experience slow slip events similar to those in Cascadia. "There are a few places in the world where these slow slip events are associated with small to moderate-sized earthquakes, and they are very clearly tied in space and time. The timing is clear, not a coincidence. They really occur in lockstep."
"One of the things about the ETS events is that it is a reminder every 15 months or so in the Puget Sound region ... something is happening down there, and it's pushing stress around and it's just a reminder that (a megathrust earthquake) is inevitable. It's not if it's going to happen it's when. It's probably not too soon, but we can't be too sure of that."

**All do not develop in the same manner, or at the same pace.
Nations, like men, often march to the beat of different drummers,
and the precise solutions of the United States can neither
be dictated nor transplanted to others.
What is important is that all nations
must march toward increasing freedom;
toward justice for all; toward a society strong and flexible enough
to meet the demands of all its own people,
and a world of immense and dizzying change.**
Robert F. Kennedy

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Volcano activity of January 30

Russia - Volcano Quartet Erupts on Kamchatka. A unique show is taking place on Kamchatka these days: Four separate but nearby volcanoes are erupting simultaneously on the Russian peninsula. A Moscow film crew has produced an awe-inspiring 360-degree video of the natural fireworks.
Volcanic eruptions are hardly a rarity. It seems that a new one goes off every few weeks or so somewhere in the world. But a string of four volcanoes erupting in close proximity to one another is virtually unheard of. That, though, is what has taken place in recent weeks on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's far east. Four different cones and mountains, all within 180 kilometers (110 miles) of each other, have been active simultaneously since late November. Given that volcano experts don't believe that the four volcanoes are being fed from the same magma source, the parallel eruptions would seem to be the geological equivalent of winning the lottery.
Three tectonic plates -- the North American Plate, the Okhotsk Plate and the Pacific Plate -- collide beneath Kamchatka, with the peninsula's coastal range boasting 30 active volcanoes. All four of the volcanoes now erupting have shown significant activity in recent years. Most recently, Tobalchik began spewing lava on Nov. 27 of last year, creating impressive lava flows. Shiveluch, the northernmost of the four, prefers shooting columns of ash high into the air, which it has been doing on a regular basis during the last four years since a magma dome in its crater exploded.
Besymjanny awoke with a bang in the 1950s following 1,000 years of dormancy and has been active since then, with huge clouds of ash rising on a regular basis. Finally, the southernmost of the quartet, Kisimen, has been erupting regularly since 2010, and there is concern that it could perform a repeat of the violent explosion which sheered off half of the mountain some 1,300 years ago. (photos & video)

Papua New Guinea airport reopens after volcano shutdown - The main airport in PNG's East New Britain has re-opened after volcanic ash from nearby Mount Tavurvur forced all flights to be cancelled. The volcano roared back into life a couple of weeks ago and aviation authorities shut down Tokua airport.

Japan - Mt. Fuji Should Erupt by 2015. Since the Great Tohoku Earthquake of March 2011, scientists have been anxiously watching the massive volcano known as Mt. Fuji for signs of activity.

In the Indian Ocean -
Tropical Cyclone Felleng was located approximately 295 nm west-northwest of La Reunion.

Australia - Shock is turning to anger across Queensland's flood-ravaged communities as authorities struggle to meet the needs of tens of thousands disaster victims. Heated scenes unfolded in devastated Bundaberg after police overruled a council plan to let residents back into the city's north to see what's left of their homes. Residents reacted furiously despite being told it was for their own safety.
Water police have been tasked with guarding the Burnett River in case locals attempt to cross over by boat. Police were stationed at the council chambers after residents were told they would remain locked out of the disaster zone. Police said there was simply no choice, with safety inspections still not complete. But it's hoped residents may start returning from 6am (AEST) Saturday.
"It's a scene of utter devastation. Houses are not there anymore. There's roads that are not there anymore." Dead cats and dogs litter the streets, houses have been washed from their foundations and one home is missing entirely with no clue to its final resting place.
The devastation caused by ex-tropical cyclone Oswald continues to grow. At Biggenden, between Gayndah and Bundaberg, floodwaters have spread years of rubbish build-up from a local dump across 1000 hectares of grazing land. "It's an environmental disaster." The army finally arrived in the town of Munduberra, west of Gayndah, on Friday morning - four days after flood levels there peaked, flooding 100 homes and businesses in the town and the same number in outlying areas.
In North Burnett, many homes had been flooded to their roofs, and a couple of houses had been split in half and partly washed away by the force of the water. Local people, many of whom were elderly, were worn out after having been hit by floods only two years ago. They'd quietly hoped for immediate help, but it didn't come. The premier said he understood people were angry, but with a disaster so broad, affecting so many communities, authorities were doing their best. "There is an enormous amount that has been going on and an enormous amount of damage to sort out."
The damage bill from the disaster is certain to climb into the billions, with infrastructure smashed, farms ruined, and so many homes and businesses across the state damaged or destroyed. An early estimate of farming losses alone has been put at $100 million. The Queensland Farmers' Federation says everyone from pig and dairy farmers to sugarcane and citrus growers urgently needs access to the highest levels of disaster assistance.


Australia - Damaging storms hit Sydney. Severe thunderstorms have rolled across parts of Sydney, cutting power and disrupting train services, while hailstones have pummelled the Blue Mountains.


Flu vaccine effectiveness waned over 2011-12 season - It's been more or less an article of faith that influenza vaccination in the fall will protect a person through the winter flu season, but three studies published in Eurosurveillance are challenging that view.