Monday, August 19, 2013

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook

There will be no update on Tuesday this week.

**Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.**
African Proverb

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 8/18/13 -

New Zealand - Risk of breach at dam near quake-hit town. Emergency services are on standby as a dam near the New Zealand town of Seddon has been found to be at heightened risk of breaching following last week's earthquakes, threatening about a dozen homes.
Most of Seddon's buildings suffered some damage in Friday afternoon's 6.6-magnitude tremor and eight homes have been deemed uninhabitable by Marlborough District Council inspectors. The council decided to lower the Haldon Dam as a safety precaution following the quake. However, heavy rain over the weekend has slowed that work and, during the drainage process, the dam engineer overseeing the site has identified more issues with the dam's stability.
The elevated level of risk has prompted the council to put emergency services on standby in Seddon and to issue a warning to nearby residents. In a worst-case scenario, eight rural properties, about a dozen homes and up to two dozen sections in Seddon could be flooded if the dam were to breach. Property owners would get 90 minutes' notice if floodwaters were to flow towards their properties. A warning note is being delivered to households on Monday afternoon. Emergency services would move door to door evacuating properties should that be required.
The engineer's advice is that extreme flooding is unlikely, but the council has decided it's in the public interest to be prepared in case more problems emerge with the stability of the dam. Meanwhile, in addition to the eight homes in Seddon that must be vacated because they are unsafe or uninhabitable, a further 11 properties have restricted use only because of safety issues.
A storm lashed Marlborough Saturday as residents tried to make a start on repairing damage from the violent 6.6 earthquake that rocked Seddon Friday. Members of the community were helping protect homes with broken windows and damaged roofs from rain and wind, using plywood and tarpaulins, as well as checking chimneys. The storm whipped up early in the morning.
Ensuring that damaged homes were still habitable and weather-tight was one of the key jobs for Seddon today. Damage has been reported to roofs, windows and chimneys. Motorists were warned that while State Highway 1 was open from Blenheim to Seddon, extreme caution was required. Roads were still closed south of Seddon.
One Seddon woman had a lucky escape as the doorway she was standing under started to collapse, and then a chimney came down in front of her as she ran outside. She was in bed having a nap when the quake hit at 2.31pm "all of a sudden, before I even had time to think about it. It was just unbelievable, really. The whole house, I could just see the walls cracking basically in front of me, I stood in the doorway and half of the doorway was collapsing so then went into the kitchen and then ran outside, and then the chimney . . . came down right in front of me." Another chimney at the other end of her 130-year-old home had also come down. All inside is basically a write-off. She was "very lucky" not to have been hurt.
The constant aftershocks frayed the nerves of Marlborough residents, with the region cut off to the south by damage to SH1 for much of the day. SH1 bridges at Needles Creek and Flaxbourne, south of Seddon, were closed due to "extensive damage". Police initially closed SH1 between Weld Pass and Kaikoura due to the dangerous overhangs, slips, large boulders and cracks in the road. Main line train services were halted. Marlborough schools and other supermarkets shut, with shopping aisles littered with debris.
In Blenheim, buildings were evacuated, Stadium 2000 and the public library among them. Blenheim police cordoned off the Forum in the central township and sent all shop owners and staff home after large cracks appeared on a pedestrian flyover. Police were checking for damaged buildings, and to ensure people were safe. Most Blenheim businesses closed. Blenheim Airport stayed open, but some flights were delayed.
In the capital, thousands of quake-rattled people fled the city Saturday, reducing traffic to a standstill while many people were stranded in the city after trains were cancelled. City workers spilled on to Wellington streets after buildings were evacuated or employers told people to go home. The roads around the CBD and state highways quickly became clogged with people trying to make their way home, with some even deciding to walk along the highway. Passing motorists were stopped by police and told to pack in a few of the thousands of commuters stranded at Wellington Train Station after all trains were cancelled.
A GNS scientist said the earthquake swarm appeared to be a "rejuvenation" of the area shaken by quakes last month. "You can anticipate pretty meaty aftershocks with a quake of that strength, so it's not such a surprise that we've had so many since." (49 photos)

Japan - Clean-up begins after Japan volcano erupts. Sakurajima volcano is spewing a cloud of smoke 5000 metres into the sky.
Clean-up workers have started removing a layer of grey ash that spread across Kagoshima city in southern Japan after the volcano erupted at the weekend. Kagoshima city mobilised more than 60 street sweepers as well as water-spraying vehicles on Monday to remove ash that coated the streets. The eruption of Sakurajima, which overlooks the city, happened on Sunday afternoon, spewing the highest ash plume from the volcano since an eruption in 2000.
Television footage showed the mushroom-shaped grey plume shooting upwards against the backdrop of a clear blue sky. A large amount of volcanic ash fell in the northern and central parts of the city, causing a delay in train services and temporary poor visibility, forcing car drivers to use their headlights. Residents turned to masks and umbrellas to protect themselves against the ash cloud, but there were no reports of injuries or damage. "The volcanic activity had been subdued by Monday morning. There is no sign of large scale eruptions in the near future, but we have not yet lifted a two-kilometre no-go zone just in case."
The eruption also caused a small amount of lava to run down the side of the crater. It was the highly active volcano's 500th eruption this year. Japan is a seismically active country with regular earthquakes and eruptions from volcanoes that dot the archipelago. Kagoshima city is about 950 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.


In the Atlantic Ocean -
Post-tropical cyclone Erin has degenerated into a remnant low about 1080 mi (1740 km) WNW of the Cape Verde Islands.

In the Western Pacific -
Tropical storm Pewa is located approximately 769 nm east-southeastward of Wake Island.

Tropical storm Trami is located approximately 420 nm southward of Kadena Air Base, Japan. Trami is forecast to strike China at about 06:00 GMT on 22 August.

In the Central Pacific -
Tropical storm Unala is located about 1360 mi (2190 km) W of Honolulu, Hawaii.

+African Wave 94L Has Potential to Develop; 92L is dead; Erin dying. It's time to turn our attention to the coast of Africa, where a new tropical wave (94L) has just emerged over the Tropical Atlantic. Wind shear is a moderate 10 - 20 knots over 94L, and water temperatures are warm enough for development, 27.5°C. Conditions should allow for some slow development. As usual, dry air from the Saharan Air Layer will likely be an impediment to development. In their 8 am EDT Sunday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 94L a 10% of developing by Tuesday, and a 30% chance of developing by Friday.
The tropical disturbance (92L) that was over the Gulf of Mexico the past few days has now degenerated into a trough of low pressure with little heavy thunderstorm activity, and is no longer a threat to develop. However, a flow of moist tropical air will take some of the remnants of 92L northwards over the Southeast U.S. over the next few days, bringing a swath of 3+ inches of rain to the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
Tropical Storm Erin over the Eastern Atlantic is small and weak and has lost nearly all of its heavy thunderstorms, as seen on satellite loops. Dry air, moderate wind shear, and marginal water temperatures will likely destroy the storm by Monday, as predicted by all of the reliable global computer models and the NHC.

Philippines - Storm-enhanced Habagat affecting Philipines. Tropical storm "Maring" is not expected to hit the Philippines directly but it is enhancing the southwest monsoon. The tropical storm northeast of the country has dumped rains over a large portion of Luzon.
Alert level 1 has been lifted over Marikina River after its waters continued to subside on Monday. But as of Monday noon, over a thousand residents are still evacuated in anticipation of possible flooding. The state weather bureau said Tropical Storm "Maring" is enhancing the southwest monsoon, which has triggered flashfloods in the metropolis and nearby provinces.


+ Video - Pakistan floods. Hundreds of Pakistan villages have been submerged by floods.


Idaho - Firefighters step up battle against Idaho blaze; resort towns menaced. On Sunday, firefighters mounted an all-out ground and air attack on an Idaho wildfire that has forced the evacuation of some 2,250 homes and threatened the world-class ski resort of Sun Valley, where snow-making water cannons were used to keep the flames at bay.
The fire raging across parched sagebrush, grasslands and pine forests near high-end developments in the Sun Valley area has consumed 101,000 acres and destroyed one home and seven other buildings since lightning sparked the blaze on August 7. More than 1,000 firefighters were engaged in what fire officials called "a heavy air show" and ground assault in a drive to gain the upper hand over a blaze stoked by dry, hot weather and strong, gusting winds.
"Every fire has a personality, and this fire has an angry personality." Airplane tankers dumping payloads of fire retardant and helicopters dropping water bolstered the fight on Sunday to protect the 5,128 residences, 1,399 commercial properties and 3,729 outbuildings threatened by the fire. For the first time since the so-called Beaver Creek blaze erupted, weather conditions on Sunday turned in favor of the firefighters.
A rise in humidity levels overnight paired with calmer winds gave crews an edge in efforts to subdue flames that have advanced on affluent neighborhoods around the tourist town of Hailey and resort communities of Ketchum and Sun Valley to the north. Authorities have put the value of land and property threatened in the resort region, known as the Wood River Valley, at $8 billion. The area contains the homes of such celebrities as film director Steven Spielberg and singer and actress Barbra Streisand.
The 11-day battle against the flames has strained the economies of the resort towns at the height of a summer recreation season tied to hiking, biking and fishing. Word that firefighters were gaining ground on the fire was welcome news in Hailey, a city of 8,000. "Saturday was really, really scary, but things seem to be looking up a bit today." Flames raced down a mountain on the west side of Hailey on Saturday, prompting a 3 a.m. evacuation of 200 homes.
The Beaver Creek fire is one of dozens of blazes raging in western states amid a U.S. fire season that brought substantial property losses and the deaths of dozens of firefighters. Elsewhere in Idaho, roughly 30 miles to the west, the 1,000 summer residents of the resort communities of Pine and Featherville were allowed back into their homes early Sunday evening after a days-long evacuation prompted by a 130,000-acre (53,000-hectare) wildfire that broke out on August 8. The blaze east of the state capital Boise destroyed 38 homes and 43 other buildings and killed dozens of animals, including elk, deer and black bears.


+ European forests near 'carbon saturation point - European forests are showing signs of reaching a saturation point as carbon sinks, a study has suggested. Since 2005, the amount of atmospheric CO2 absorbed by the continent's trees has been slowing. This was a result of a declining volume of trees, deforestation and the impact of natural disturbances.
Carbon sinks play a key role in the global carbon cycle and are promoted as a way to offset rising emissions. The carbon cycle is the process by which carbon - essential for life on the planet - is transferred between land (geosphere and terrestrial biosphere), sea (hydrosphere) and the atmosphere. Carbon sinks refers to the capacity of key components in the cycle - such as the soil, oceans, rock and fossil fuels - to store carbon, preventing it from being recycled, eg between the land and the atmosphere.
Many of Europe's forests are reaching an age where growth, and carbon uptake, slows down. The continent's forests had been recovering in recent times after centuries of stock decline and deforestation. The growth had also provided a "persistent carbon sink", which was projected to continue for decades.
However, the team's study observed three warnings that the carbon sink provided by Europe's tree stands was nearing a saturation point. "First, the stem volume increment rate (of individual trees) is increasing and thus the sink is curbing after decades of increase. Second, land use is intensifying, thereby leading to deforestation and associated carbon losses. Third, natural disturbances (like wildfires) are increasing and, as a consequence, so are the emissions of CO2."
"All of this together means that the increase in the size of the sink is stopping; it is even declining a little. We see this as the first signs of a saturating sink." Since the Industrial Revolution, human activity has modified the carbon cycle as a result of burning fossil fuels and land-use change. Burning fossil fuels has resulted in vast amounts of carbon previously locked in the geosphere being released into the atmosphere. Land-use change - such as urbanisation and deforestation - has reduced the size of the biosphere, which removes carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
The researcher's conclusions appear to contradict the State of Europe's Forests report in 2011 that showed forest cover in Europe had continued to increase. The report said trees covered almost half of Europe's land area and absorbed about 10% of Europe's annual greenhouse gas emissions. But a sizeable proportion of forests are mature stands of trees, which were mainly planted in the early part of the 20th Century or in the post-World War II period. "These forests have now reached 70-80 years old and are starting a phase in the life of a tree where the growth rate starts to come down. So you have large areas of old forest and even if you add these relatively small areas of new forest, this does not compensate for the loss of growth rate in the old forests." However, mature woodlands have been recognised as a key habitat for supporting and conserving biodiversity.
"For some countries, the sink is a very large part of their emissions reduction commitment so the saturation is a real problem, requiring them to take additional measures, for example in the electricity generation or transport sectors." As a sizeable proportion of Europe's forest areas are owned by smallholders, the process of changing the age-profile of the continent's tree cover could prove challenging with some owners resisting the idea of increasing wood production and tree harvesting.
One potential solution is a pan-European, legally binding agreement on forest management that would look to balance the ecological value of forests against the trees' commercial and climate mitigation value. Delegates from more than 40 nations have been working on such a framework since 2011. However, talks stalled in June when negotiators were unable to reach agreement on a number of technicalities. Talks are set to resume in the autumn, with the aim of having a draft agreement in place by mid-November for EU forestry ministers to consider.


+ Lyme, tick-borne illnesses get even more terrifying - The height of tick season generally brings a spate of scary stories about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, and this year's seem especially high on the heebie-jeebies scale.
Lyme disease itself has long been confounding, andt about 25% of patients continue experiencing symptoms - debilitating headaches, sore joints, nausea, etc. - long after they finish the standard month-long treatment of oral antibiotics. Medically speaking, they should be fine, but they're nowhere near it. Did the bacteria dodge the antibiotics and infiltrate the body's nervous system? Maybe the Lyme triggered a different illness? Should patients stay on antibiotics long-term? Most specialists thinks the latter is a bad idea for a host of reasons, but it's the only relief for some patients.
If Lyme sounds awful, it's nothing compared to the emerging threat of the Powassan virus. It is rarer — about 6% of ticks in New York's Hudson Valley were found to carry it in a recent study, compared to about 50% for Lyme — but far more lethal. About a third of those afflicted die. Last week, a senator called on the CDC to launch a study of Powassan and to expand research into all tick-borne diseases.
Such research can't come soon enough. Doctors for too long have resorted to a "knee-jerk diagnosis" of Lyme, often to their patients' detriment, but the new studies show that we need a much broader view of "all the illnesses tiny ticks can carry, the big problems they can create, and what doctors and patients can do to stem the tide."

Buurma Farms, Inc. is recalling fresh Cilantro due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.