Monday, March 11, 2013

Two Years After Fukushima, Japan Worries About the Next Big Quake - Two years after the 9.0 magnitude quake and resulting tsunami devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, the country's disaster response experts are more nervous than ever about the ground beneath their feet.

**It is good to have a goal to journey toward;
but it is the journey that matters, in the end.**
Ursula K. Le Guin

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/10/13 -

European satellite recorded Japan quake - A European Space Agency satellite circling Earth was able to detect the massive 2011 earthquake that ravaged Japan, killing nearly 16,000 people and causing massive destruction, a new study says.
"The atmospheric infrasounds following the great Tohoku earthquake ... induced variations of air density and vertical acceleration of the GOCE platform." The Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) is the European Space Agency super-sensitive satellite that acts like an orbital seismologist. Scientists argue that earthquakes not only create seismic waves that travel through Earth's interior, but large tremors also cause the surface of the planet to vibrate like a drum. This produces sound waves that travel upwards through the atmosphere. GOCE is designed to capture and register these signals.
The magnitude 9.0 tremor on March 11, 2011 sent shock waves through the atmosphere that was picked up by the satellite. Perturbations up to 11 per cent of air density and a vertical acceleration of air waves were observed following the quake. "These perturbations were due to acoustic waves creating vertical velocities up to 130 metres per second."
The satellite first recorded the signal as it passed over the Pacific Ocean about 30 minutes after the quake and then again 25 minutes later as it moved across Europe. "Seismologists are particularly excited by this discovery because they were virtually the only Earth scientists without a space-based instrument directly comparable to those deployed on the ground. With this new tool, they can start to look up into space to understand what is going on under their feet."

Japan - Okinawa ‘well overdue’ for quake. With the memory of Japan’s devastating disaster still fresh, scientists are warning of a possible repeat on Okinawa, saying the island is overdue for a mega-earthquake that could send a tsunami over coastal communities and U.S. bases where thousands of Americans live and work.
The Marine Corps has unveiled a new tsunami warning system and evacuation plan for Okinawa designed to clear out low-lying bases before a deadly wave strikes, though coordination with nearby Japanese communities remains a work in progress. "A major earthquake on Okinawa is “well overdue and can happen at any time." The public belief that Okinawa is immune to such events is a myth.
The island straddles 13 active faults and sits along the edge of the Eurasian and Philippine Sea tectonic plates in the Pacific Ocean. As one plate slides under the other, energy builds up, causing increasing numbers of small quakes. The Okinawa Meteorological Observatory has observed more than 870 tremors over the past month, most of which were imperceptible without monitoring equipment.
Meanwhile, the shifting plates are causing the growth of fissures in the East China Sea, putting increasing pressure on an island that is already crisscrossed with active faults. “At some point, the friction will reach a point where the accumulated energy can no longer be absorbed. Under these circumstances, a massive earthquake is inevitable.” A big earthquake is likely to cause a tsunami, though the deadly waves are rare.
The 2011 disaster is thought to be an event that happens just once every 1,000 years. That tsunami scraped away 9,000 acres of coastal land, completely wiping whole communities off the map and leaving vast stretches strewn with crushed homes and jumbled vehicles. Two years later, the area is still trying to recover.
The island of Ishigaki, near Taiwan, suffered a massive tsunami that killed about 12,000 in 1771. The island of Okinawa has no record of a large tsunami during the past millennium. A mega-quake and tsunami would likely devastate a number of U.S. military bases along with much of the densely populated central and southern coasts, according to newly updated tsunami flood maps released in February by the prefectural government. A 16-foot tsunami could engulf sections of camps Foster, Lester and Schwab, as well as the popular American Village Shopping district, the U.S. Navy base at White Beach and the Okuma Recreation Center, the maps show.
The water could be much higher - the tsunami on Japan’s northern coast rose 30 to 40 feet, according to various accounts. Facilities on much higher ground, such as sprawling Kadena Air Base and Futenma Air Station, are unlikely to be affected, the flood maps show. The new assessment has underscored the Marine Corps’ effort to upgrade its tsunami plan since the 2011 disaster. In February, the service, which owns most of the at-risk coastal bases, began routine testing of a new system of sirens that will alert every facility on the island simultaneously if a tsunami alert is issued. In the past, each Marine Corps base was responsible for calling its own warning. Now, the alert system is linked through the central provost marshal’s office on Camp Foster, which continually monitors for updates from the Japan Meteorological Agency and its tsunami warning system.
The alarm can be sounded within minutes of an earthquake. Time is crucial - a mega-quake along nearby fault lines could send a wave over coastal bases in 20 minutes. Those on base are supposed to walk to higher ground. The Marine Corps signed an agreement last year to open its gates so Japanese residents along the coast can evacuate on foot through bases. “We’ve exercised this stuff, and it works great." The most recent test evacuation was Feb. 23.
Work is still needed to fully coordinate with local Japanese communities when an off-base evacuation is called. The military hopes to get more accurate notice of when hundreds or thousands of evacuees will begin reaching military gates. There are also plans to upgrade the blue tsunami warning signs at bases with more detailed safety information. “We’ve made significant progress; however, I think we still have a long way to go. I think everybody is doing their diligence. We all learned lessons” from the 2011 disaster.

Volcano Webcams

In the Indian Ocean -
Tropical Cyclone Sandra was located approximately 410 nm northwest of Noumea, New Caledonia.


Australia Melbourne close to hitting the HOTTEST STRETCH OF WEATHER SINCE RECORDS BEGAN IN 1856.

Amplified Greenhouse Effect Shifts Growing Seasons in the North - Vegetation growth at Earth's northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of ground-based and satellite data sets.
Scientists examined the relationship between changes in surface temperature and vegetation growth from 45 degrees north latitude to the Arctic Ocean. Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982. "Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more. In the north's Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems."
Of the 10 million square miles (26 million square kilometers) of northern vegetated lands, 34 to 41 percent showed increases in plant growth, 3 to 5 percent showed decreases in plant growth, and 51 to 62 percent showed no changes over the past 30 years. As a result of enhanced warming and a longer growing season, large patches of vigorously productive vegetation now span a third of the northern landscape, or more than 3.5 million square miles (9 million square kilometers). That is an area about equal to the contiguous United States. This landscape resembles what was found 250 to 430 miles (400 to 700 kilometers) to the south in 1982.
The Arctic's greenness is visible on the ground as an increasing abundance of tall shrubs and trees in locations all over the circumpolar Arctic. Greening in the adjacent boreal areas is more pronounced in Eurasia than in North America. An amplified greenhouse effect is driving the changes, according to the report. Increased concentrations of heat-trapping gasses, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane, cause Earth's surface, ocean and lower atmosphere to warm. Warming reduces the extent of polar sea ice and snow cover, and, in turn, the darker ocean and land surfaces absorb more solar energy, thus further heating the air above them.
"This sets in motion a cycle of positive reinforcement between warming and loss of sea ice and snow cover, which we call the amplified greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect could be further amplified in the future as soils in the north thaw, releasing potentially significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane." To find out what is in store for future decades, the team analyzed 17 climate models. These models show that increased temperatures in Arctic and boreal regions would be the equivalent of a 20-degree latitude shift by the end of this century relative to a period of comparison from 1951-1980. However, researchers note that plant growth in the north may not continue on its current trajectory.
The ramifications of an amplified greenhouse effect, such as frequent forest fires, outbreak of pest infestations and summertime droughts, may slow plant growth. Also, warmer temperatures alone in the boreal zone do not guarantee more plant growth, which also depends on the availability of water and sunlight. "Satellite data identify areas in the boreal zone that are warmer and dryer and other areas that are warmer and wetter. Only the warmer and wetter areas support more growth. We found more plant growth in the boreal zone from 1982 to 1992 than from 1992 to 2011, because water limitations were encountered in the later two decades of our study." (satellite photo)