Sunday, February 3, 2013

A powerful 6.9 magnitude earthquake has struck northern Japan, causing strong tremors across Hokkaido island, but no damage to several nuclear facilities in the region. The quake, which was preceded by an early warning broadcast on television and radio, hit near the town of Obihiro at a depth of 103 kilometres at 11.17pm on Saturday (0117 AEDT Sunday).
Ten people suffered minor injuries due to falling objects, broken glass and other incidents, but authorities said no serious damage was reported and the quake did not generate a tsunami. The shaking lasted about a minute, and video taken in the offices of NHK Hokkaido showed computer screens swaying and shelves threatening to give way. Bottles smashed to the ground in supermarkets, some areas had power blackouts and a number of highways were closed. Trains were stopped on rural tracks as a precaution.
"Beware of possible landslides and buildings that could have been weakened," an official from Japan's Meteorological Agency warned at a press conference. The most violent tremors were felt in the eastern part of Hokkaido - the nation's second largest island - but the northern part of the island was also shaken along with parts of the main island of Honshu, where Tokyo is located.
Utility firms said no abnormalities were reported at the Tomari nuclear plant in Hokkaido's west, nor in the nuclear facilities in Aomori, the northernmost prefecture on Honshu. At present only two of the country's 50 reactors are operational, after the entire network was shuttered over several months for scheduled safety checks following the quake-tsunami disaster of March 2011.
Shortly before Saturday's quake hit, an alert was broadcast on television and radio through an early warning system established by the weather agency, and programs were interrupted on NHK. "Make yourself safe, turn off the gas, beware of falling objects, and if you are outside do not approach the coast," a broadcaster said. Since the Fukushima disaster the country has been fearing another quake catastrophe. Some of Japan's reactors, including the Higashidori facility, are built near faults suspected to be active.
Some four hours after the quake a 5.5-magnitude tremor struck off Japan's Izu islands, around 725 kilometres south of Tokyo.

**Have a 'Super' Sunday!**

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/2/13 -

2/1/13 -

Japan - Large quake could cause massive oil spillage in Tokyo Bay storage tanks. Tokyo Bay could be the site of an ecological disaster if a major earthquake struck south of Japan's coast, say experts, citing ground motions that would cause sloshing in oil storage tanks and spill as much as 120,000 kiloliters of oil.

Volcano Webcams

Volcano activity on January 31

Volcano activity on February 1

Reventador volcano (Ecuador) - lava dome continues to grow, ongoing explosions. Seismic activity remains at a high level, with a daily average of 20 earthquakes related to fluid pressurization and movement inside the volcano, and a daily average of 29 explosions since 22 January.

Indonesian mud eruption will soon die out, scientists predict - The mud volcano known as Lusi began erupting in May 2006 after a drilling accident at a nearby gas exploration well. Since then, the eruption has buried an area about twice the size of New York's Central Park and displaced more than 60,000 people.

In the Indian Ocean -
Tropical Cyclone Felleng was located approximately 460 nm south-southwest of La Reunion.

Tropical Cyclone Felleng Hits Madagascar and Nearby Islands - Five people were killed as pounding rain and high winds from tropical cyclone Felleng battered Madagascar on Thursday. "Four people died after a house collapsed in Antananarivo and one person drowned in Maroantsetra," in the north.
The category three tropical cyclone barrelled along the island's east coast, around 200 kilometres (125 miles) from land, bringing gusts that reached 250 kilometres (155 miles) an hour. Around the capital Antananarivo homes and rice fields were flooded and 650 people were forced to move to tents provided by rescue teams. UN agencies reported "no major damage in the north-east" of the country, which was hit first by the storm system, which is travelling south. "But dozen of households living in low lying areas were evacuated last night in Nosy Varika and temporarily sheltered in a school."
With the storm churning the Indian Ocean, the authorities had earlier closed coastal schools and those in the capital. Madagascar is one the world's islands most vulnerable to cyclones. In the past decade 45 tropical storms have hit. Cyclone Giovanna and tropical storm Irina last year killed 112 people and affected 90,000.
On Jan. 31, NASA's Aqua satellite captured an image of Cyclone Felleng squeezing between Madagascar and La Reunion.

Australia -
North Bundaberg residents are running on empty - In the space of a week, they've seen their neighbourhood transform from a quiet community into a raging river and, finally, to a disaster zone akin to something that might come out of Hollywood. Luxury yachts lay strewn along the banks of the Burnett River, where the relentless flow of water tossed them aside like a child might scatter his toys during a tantrum.
In town, putrid mud coats almost everything in sight. Stagnant ponds have formed in sunken roads, furniture rests precariously in trees and some homes have disappeared completely. Council estimates the damage bill to be at least $200 million. As soon as the Burnett Bridge, which links the obliterated suburb to the CBD in the south, was completely opened on Sunday morning, a stream of cars began filing over. Some waiting in the several kilometre-long line just wanted to start getting their homes back in order. Others will be assessing whether they want to go back at all.
"It's like we're standing in the middle of a third world country. I've never seen anything like this." Bundaberg, the worst hit city in Queensland's flood crisis, has been a mecca for politicians who have come to stand in front of cameras with offers of help. But having too many people in charge and trying to help almost backfired last week when a communication breakdown between police and council saw residents told they could return home to north Bundaberg, only to have the offer withdrawn hours later. Angry, frustrated and tired, residents stood at the entry to the bridge demanding to be allowed over.
But for now, tensions have subsided as people focus on the gargantuan clean-up task ahead. It could be months before residents can actually move back into their homes. If they are even inhabitable, they are without water, sewerage or power. In the meantime, they have temporary homes at a makeshift tent city in the showgrounds.
Rockhampton floods recede, crocs new fear - Flood levels have peaked well below the 2011 level in Rockhampton. But saltwater crocodiles and venomous snakes are worrying Rockhampton residents and authorities as the Fitzroy River falls further below an 8.6 metre peak.
The central Queensland river has been receding since Saturday morning, sparing Australia's beef capital the devastation of a predicted 8.7 metre inundation. While fewer streets are being evacuated - compared with early 2011 when the river peaked at 9.2 metres - the sighting of crocodiles on streets at Koongal and Depot Hill is still a concern. Some residents are using boats to access flooded homes, with one man seen delivering a pizza in a tinny on Sunday afternoon. Fire and Rescue officers have been dropping off food to flood bound homeowners.
The Fitzroy River was expected to fall below 8m on Monday, and to three metres by Wednesday ahead of planned clean-up operations. Beaches to Rockhampton's east, including Yeppoon and Emu Park, have been closed because of debris and cattle carcasses. Floodwater filled the backyards of about 1100 backyards, but Rockhampton Regional Council expected fewer homes and businesses to have water above the floorboards compared with 2011 when 200 dwellings were inundated. About 26 people have moved to an evacuation centre and Ergon Energy has had to disconnect 23 homes in low lying areas. The council is advising residents to brace for the pungent odour of rotting vegetation as the floodwaters recede.


Jordan - A flash flood in southern Jordan has killed an elderly man as torrential rains and heavy snowfall swept the desert country, trapping 300 people who had to be rescued. The man was swept away by floods in Maan province, around 200 kilometres south of Amman.
Rescue teams reached 300 people trapped by heavy snow in the south of the country, with torrential rains in several regions over the past two days. The main road linking the southern port city of Aqaba to the Dead Sea was closed because of the extreme weather. Torrential rains swept through Jordan and the entire region last month, sparking widespread flooding and traffic chaos.


COMET LEMMON UPDATE - Glowing much brighter than expected, Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6) is gliding through the skies of the southern hemisphere about 92 million miles (0.99 AU) from Earth. "It has become quite bright now and has also grown a beautiful tail."
Discovered on March 23rd 2012 by the Mount Lemmon survey in Arizona, Comet Lemmon is on an elliptical orbit with a period of almost 11,000 years. This is its first visit to the inner solar system in a very long time. The comet is brightening as it approaches the sun; light curves suggest that it will reach 2nd or 3rd magnitude, similar to the stars in the Big Dipper, in late March when it approaches the sun at about the same distance as Venus (0.7 AU).
At the moment, the comet is glowing like a 7th magnitude star, just below the limit of naked-eye visibility. Lemmon's green color comes from the gases that make up its coma. Jets spewing from the comet's nucleus contain cyanogen (CN: a poisonous gas found in many comets) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space. Northern hemisphere observers will get their first good look at the comet in early April; until then it is a target exclusively for astronomers in the southern hemisphere. (photo)