Friday, August 16, 2013

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LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
Aftershocks continue in Sicily

Yesterday, 8/15/13 -
4.2 SICILY (with multiple small aftershocks)

New Zealand - A strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake has shaken central New Zealand, causing some minor damage, but there are no reports of injuries. No tsunami was generated and there were no reports of major damage to buildings in Wellington but police said some houses had been damaged in Seddon near where the quake was centred.
It struck at 2.31pm and was located 10km southeast of the Marlborough town at a depth of 8km. It was felt as far north as Auckland and as far south as Dunedin. Office workers in Wellington flooded onto the streets in the aftermath and there was some broken glass in the central business district. Many buildings were evacuated and workers told to go home to allow structural assessments to be carried out.
"Lots of aftershocks. Beehive (parliament) wobbling around like a jelly, but all ok". A number of people had been freed from lifts in Wellington which stopped operating when the quake hit. There have been reports of power lines down in the Seddon area and State Highway 1 south of Blenheim was closed after a slip came down on the road. Police advised people not to drive in the region unless absolutely necessary and to take care around bridges and overpasses which may have moved.
Police were asking residents to check on any vulnerable neighbours and alert emergency services if they need assistance. They urged motorists to be patient as road were congested and transport services were disrupted. Telecom advised people to send text messages rather than call but said there was no significant damage to its network. About 2500 customers in the Wellington region lost power after the earthquake. Wellington Airport's runway had been inspected and cleared but train services in the capital were suspended while tracks were assessed.
Dozens of aftershocks continued to rattle the area with a number magnitude 5 or greater. The shake comes after a 6.5 quake in the same region on July 21 which caused minor injuries to 25 people and damage to dozens of buildings.


In the Atlantic Ocean -
Tropical storm Erin is located about 340 mi. (550 km) W of the Cape Verde Islands.

The TROPICAL WAVE in the Western Caribbean near the Yucatan Peninsula (92L) was growing more organized Thursday morning, after an evening when it lost most of its heavy thunderstorm activity. Satellite loops show a modest-sized area of heavy thunderstorms that are increasing in intensity and areal coverage, but there are a no signs of a surface circulation. The highest surface wind reports Thursday morning were about 140 miles east southeast of Cozumel, which had east winds of 25 mph, gusting to 34 mph, at 10 am EDT. 92L was expected to trek across the Yucatan Peninsula Thursday evening and arrive in the Southern Gulf of Mexico on Friday, when it will have the opportunity to strengthen.
The topography of the Southern Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche can aid in getting a storm spinning more readily, but 92L may be far enough north that this influence will be negligible. 92L should be able to become at least a tropical depression by Saturday. A trough of low pressure may be able to pull the storm northwards to a landfall between Eastern Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle. This would bring a plenty of tropical moisture into the Southeast U.S., resulting in a large area of 4+" of rain. However, other models show a more westerly track for 92L, with landfalls possible in Texas or Mexico south of the Texas border, and there is high uncertainty where 92L may go once it enters the Gulf of Mexico. In their 8 am EDT Wednesday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 92L a 50% of developing by Saturday, and a 60% chance of developing by Tuesday.
The season's fifth named storm of the year, TROPICAL STORM ERIN, has formed over the far Eastern Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Erin is over warm waters of 27°C and is under a moderate 10 - 15 knots of wind shear, which should allow continued development today. Erin is a small storm, as seen on satellite loops. The storm should weaken beginning on Sunday. We may see a situation like occurred for Tropical Storm Dorian in late July - intensification to a 60 mph tropical storm, followed by a slow decay and dissipation. The latest run of the GFS model calls for Erin to dissipate well before reaching the Lesser Antilles Islands.
TYPHOON UTOR has dissipated after hitting Southeast China about 150 miles southwest of Hong Kong on Wednesday as a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds. The typhoon is being blamed for 1 death in China, and sank a 21-person cargo ship off the coast. In the Philippines, where Utor hit as a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds on Monday, 8 deaths are being blamed on the storm, and damage is estimated at $20 million.

It's mid-August, and that means the height of the hurricane season is beginning. The greatest number of storms statistically occurs on Sept. 10, but the number of storms begins ramping up in the last two weeks of August. We're seeing the results with the possible formation of a tropical depression during the next day or two from a low pressure system approaching the Yucatan Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico, and a second system that may turn into a depression in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Erin has formed in the eastern Atlantic, the Army Corps of Engineers is trying to decide on how to best armor New Orleans area levees, and lawmakers continue to spar over the New Orleans levee authority's lawsuit against oil and gas companies. Hurricane Isaac showed southern Louisiana residents that some areas are safer since Hurricane Katrina, while some are at even greater risk for deadly and damaging flood waters. At the same time, the National Hurricane Center has promised earlier and more accurate storm surge maps in hopes of warning residents in flood risk areas to evacuate in time.

Philippines - State weather forecasters are now tracking a potential cyclone, a low-pressure area, east of Northern Luzon – even as they said the southwest monsoon may bring rain to parts of Luzon in the next 24 hours. On Thursday, PAGASA said the LPA was estimated at 1,200 km east of Northern Luzon as of 4 p.m. Should the LPA become a cyclone while inside the Philippine area of responsibility, it will be locally codenamed "Maring."
Northern Luzon is still reeling from the effects of Typhoon Labuyo (Utor), which left at least eight people dead. Meanwhile, PAGASA said the southwest monsoon is affecting the western sections of Northern and Central Luzon. "Fishing boats and other small sea crafts are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves."

Tropical cyclone developing south of Kauai, Hawaii - Three weather systems were south of Hawaii Thursday morning. The first system was about 1,150 miles southwest of Kauai. Another system is about 650 miles south of Kauai and another disorganized system is about 600 miles southeast of Hilo.
The weather system 650 miles south of Kauai could develop into the first named storm of the Central Pacific Hurricane season, National Weather Service forecasters said. But the system is moving west and should have no effect on Hawaii's weather. The storm intensified overnight and has an 80-percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next two days. "This system continues to show signs of improved organization as thunderstorms increased in coverage overnight, and a tropical depression may be developing." If it becomes a tropical storm, it will be named Pewa.
Another weather system in front of it, about 1,150 miles southwest of Kauai, is also producing thunderstorms, but is also continuing to move away from Hawaii. To the east, another weaker weaker weather system about 600 miles southeast of Hilo, could bring some showers starting Friday, mostly to the Big Island and mostly to windward and mauka areas.


A year ago, drought conditions in the U.S. stretched from coast to coast - Massachusetts to California - hitting central Georgia and the central Great Plains states of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas the hardest. Drought conditions in the Great Plains were WORSE THAN THE DRIEST SUMMERS OF THE DUST BOWL of the 1930s. By the end of July 2012, drought-related losses there were already estimated at $14 billion.
Today, the Great Plains are still suffering even with recent rains, and the drought has situated itself roughly along the nation’s traditional boundary between wet and dry — the 100th Meridian. East of that line, annual precipitation is generally above 25 inches; west of it, an arid climate reigns in most areas. West of that line, the drought remains entrenched. East of that line, the drought has generally disappeared in most areas, though some parts of the Midwest and Texas are still drier than normal and moderate drought is surging again in Iowa.
Abnormally heavy summer rains have forced a partial retreat of exceptional drought, the term for the most devastating dry conditions, in Colorado, Kansas and other parts of the Great Plains, and a complete disappearance of all drought conditions in hard-hit Georgia. As temperatures warm, the air holds more moisture and retains it longer than in cooler conditions. That means heavy rain becomes more common and dry spells between heavy downpours become lengthier. “That is, we can see more intense short-term droughts interspersed with these really heavy downpours, where we can get a month or two of rainfall in a couple of days, which is what we’ve been seeing.”
The heavy rains have eased the drought nationwide to the point where the area of the contiguous U.S. affected by drought has dropped significantly since the end of last summer. “Last year, at the beginning of August, we had 62.46 percent of the contiguous 48 states in drought, and we’re comparing it to 45.49 percent this year. That’s a big number." As of Thursday, the area of the country under moderate-to-exceptional drought conditions had fallen to 45.26 percent. A year ago, exceptional drought conditions affected 6.26 percent of the contiguous U.S., concentrated mainly in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arkansas, Missouri and Georgia. Today, 2.03 percent of the country is suffering from the worst drought conditions, mainly in northwestern Kansas and the New Mexico’s central Rio Grande Valley, with some areas in northeast Arizona, western Nevada and eastern Colorado’s Arkansas River Valley.
But Colorado is an example of what is extraordinary about how the weather this summer has affected the drought in parts of the West. Colorado, which suffered badly from the 2012 drought, received less rain — 2.47 inches — this July than the 2.84 inches it received during the drought in July 2012, but cooler, more humid conditions this year have meant that the rainfall the state received this summer allowed the moisture to soak into the soil and more effectively prevented evaporation than the monsoon rains the state received during the high heat of 2012.
“Temperatures have been markedly cooler this year than last year. The whole atmosphere across the western Great Plains is just cooler and moister. The regional air mass across the northern central Plains is cooler, but also with much more moisture across the Mississippi Valley and central Plains, the summer solar radiation — a lot of it is going to evaporation of water and a lot less of it is going to heating the air.”
But as the drought continues with less intensity in the Great Plains, dry conditions are expanding along the West Coast, where Oregon saw its driest July on record this summer and extreme drought conditions are hitting parts of Southern California. The period from January through June this year in California is the state’s driest such period on record. The drought there has sparked 4,514 wildfires on 92,353 acres of land this year through August 10, up from 3,260 fires burning 42,916 acres during the same period a year ago.
Drought is expected to persist throughout much of the West and Texas with some improvements in New Mexico, central Colorado and parts of northeast Texas and the Great Plains through the end of November, according to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook. Whether improvements in drought conditions across the country will be brought by more abnormally heavy rainfall will depend on how much moisture the atmosphere in a changing climate can hold and for how long, and clues may come from precipitation records from the past century. In a globally warmed world, scientists are seeing a clear shift to more hot and humid weather. "In the last 100 years, we've seen an increase in the heavier precipitation amounts and a decrease in the lighter precipitation amounts."