Sunday, August 25, 2013

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook

**I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable,
but through it all I still know quite certainly
that just to be alive is a grand thing.**
Agatha Christie

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 8/24/13 -

8/23/13 -

Japan - Contaminated water from earthquake-damaged Japanese nuclear plant could could taint Pacific Ocean. Deep beneath Fukushima's crippled nuclear power station a massive underground reservoir of contaminated water that began spilling from the plant's reactors after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has been creeping slowly toward the sea. Now, two-and-a-half years later, experts fear it is about to reach the Pacific and greatly worsen what is fast becoming a new crisis at Fukushima: the inability to contain vast quantities of radioactive water.
The looming crisis is potentially far greater than the discovery earlier this week of a leak from a tank used to store contaminated water used to cool the reactor cores. That 300-ton (80,000 gallon) leak is the fifth and most serious since the disaster of 2011. But experts believe the underground seepage from the reactor and turbine building area is much bigger and possibly more radioactive, confronting the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., with an invisible, chronic problem and few viable solutions. Many also believe it is another example of how TEPCO has repeatedly failed to acknowledge problems that it could almost certainly have foreseen - and could have taken action to mitigate before they got out of control.
It remains unclear what the impact of the contamination on the environment will be because the radioactivity will be diluted as it spreads further into the sea. Most fishing in the area is already banned. "Nobody knows when this is going to end. We've suspected (leaks into the ocean) from the beginning ... TEPCO is making it very difficult for us to trust them."
To keep the melted nuclear fuel from overheating, TEPCO has rigged a makeshift system of pipes and hoses to funnel water into the broken reactors. The radioactive water is then treated and stored in the aboveground tanks that have developed leaks. But far more leaks into the reactor basements during the cooling process — then through cracks into the surrounding earth and ground water.
Scientists, pointing to stubbornly high radioactive cesium levels in bottom-dwelling fish since the disaster, had for some time suspected the plant was leaking radioactive water into the ocean. TEPCO repeatedly denied that until last month, when it acknowledged contaminated water has been leaking into the ocean from early in the crisis. Even so, the company insists the seepage is coming from part of a network of maintenance tunnels, called trenches, near the coast, rather than underground water coming from the reactor area.
The turbine buildings at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are about 150 meters (500 feet) from the ocean. The contaminated underground water is spreading toward the sea at a rate of about 4 meters (13 feet) a month. At that rate, "the water from that area is just about to reach the coast," if it hasn't already. We must contain the problem as quickly as possible."
TEPCO has been criticized for repeatedly lagging in attempts to tackle leakage problems. As a precautionary step, it has created chemical blockades in the ground along the coast to stop any possible leaks, but experts question their effectiveness. After a nearly two-year delay, construction of an offshore steel wall designed to contain contaminated water has begun.
The utility has also proposed building frozen walls — upside down comb-shaped sticks that refrigerate surrounding soil — into the ground around the reactor areas, but that still has to be tested and won't be ready until 2015 if proved successful. "This is a race against the clock." Some 1,000 steel tanks built across the plant complex contain nearly 300,000 tons (300 million liters, 80 million gallons) of partially treated contaminated water. About 350 of them have rubber seams intended to last for only five years. A company spokesman said it plans to build additional tanks with welded seams that are more watertight, but will have to rely on rubber seams in the meantime. The rubber-seam tanks were mostly built in a rush when the contaminated water problem started, and often lacked adequate quality tests and require close attention. Workers have already spotted two more questionable tanks during inspection Thursday.
"It's like a haunted house, one thing happening after another. But we must take any steps that would reduce risks to avoid a fatal accident." Leaks of highly contaminated water from the above-ground tanks aggravate the groundwater problem. "Any contamination in the groundwater would eventually flow in to the ocean. That is very difficult to stop even with barriers. Radioactive cesium levels in most fish caught off the Fukushima coast hadn't declined in the year following the March 2011 disaster, suggesting that the contaminated water from the reactor-turbine areas is already leaking into the sea. But TEPCO hasn't provided the details scientists need to further assess the situation.

New Zealand - Quake prone cities 'rock like jelly'. New Zealand's most earthquake-prone cities are just like Tokyo, and ''rock like jelly on a dinner plate'' when a quake hits, new research shows.
A University of Canterbury senior hazards lecturer has been studying Tokyo's rivers, which were found to be an area of concern after the 2011 Japanese earthquakes. The research is believed to be of benefit to Christchurch and Wellington. "Tokyo, like Christchurch and the lowland areas of Wellington, is built by the sea on young sediments that have been deposited mostly by rivers or by the sea that has receded. As with Christchurch, most of the city of Tokyo was underwater only a couple of thousands years ago and most of its underground is composed of unconsolidated sediments.
Rivers were seen as an accelerator of earthquake impacts in Tokyo and Christchurch. When rivers moved laterally, they left abandoned channels filled by unconsolidated material. "This unconsolidated sediment left in abandoned channels can dramatically increase ground acceleration during an earthquake, as observed in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. There is a striking link between the amount of damage to buildings in central Christchurch and the location of abandoned and paleo-channel in the Central Business District area."
Tokyo was an excellent example of rapid urbanisation over coastal land, following its population explosion in the aftermath of World War II. "The city's expansion has rapidly engulfed different types of ground including abandoned channels, rice fields drained from marshlands and mine pits.'' It is important to look at environmental risks in urban areas as in 2010 half the world's population was living in cities. The ratio is projected to rise to 80% by 2050.


In the Eastern Pacific -
Tropical storm Ivo is located about 290 mi (465 km) W of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Swells generated by Ivo still are affecting the southern portion of the Baja California peninsula. These swells are expected to subside on Sunday. Ivo is expected to become a remnant low on Sunday.

In the Western Pacific -
Tropical storm Pewa is located approximately 552 nm northward of Wake Island.

Tropical Storm Ivo re-forms in eastern Pacific - Winds and rain from Ivo are spreading across portions of Mexico's Baja California peninsula. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said early Saturday that Ivo was located about 185 miles (300 kilometers) west of Cabo San Lucas. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) and was moving north-northwest at 12 mph (19 kph).
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Pacific coast of the peninsula from Punta Abreojos to Cabo San Lucas, and for the Gulf of California coast of the peninsula from Loreto to Cabo San Lucas. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Pacific coast of Baja California north of Punta Abreojos to Punta Eugenia. The Hurricane Center called Ivo a large storm and said it would likely bring more rain as well as surf swells.
Ivo expected to bring Arizona rain - Parts of Arizona are expected to be hit with scattered severe storms this weekend, with possible flooding thanks to moisture from Tropical Storm Ivo.

Potential cyclone enters Philippine Area of Responsibility - A new low pressure area entered the Philippine area of responsibility on Friday morning.

10% Chance Tropical Cyclone Forms Off Florida - A low pressure system has a low chance (10%) of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours.


+ Flood kills 76 in northeast China city - A river flood has killed 76 people and another 88 remain missing in Fushun.
+ China flash floods kill 21 workers in Qinghai province - At least 21 construction workers in north-west China have been killed by flash flooding that swept through a remote part of the province of Qinghai. They were "washed away" after a sudden torrential rain storm.
The area lies in high mountains 2,500km (1,500 miles) west of Beijing. Flash floods are a frequent threat both to residents there and to travellers drawn by its mountain scenery. On Monday at least 105 people were killed and 115 were missing after floods and a typhoon hit various parts of north-eastern and southern China. The Chinese government has called for "persistent efforts" to save people in the north-east from what was described as "THE WORST FLOODS IN DECADES".


+ Yemen facing water shortage - (Video). Yemen is facing a severe water crisis with some estimates suggesting the capital, Sanaa, could run dry in 10 years.

+ Wildfire near Yosemite National Park tripled in size overnight - A wildfire in Stanislaus National Forest in the US continued to expand, growing to 164 sq miles (424 sq km) by Friday morning. The Governor of California declared a state of emergency and the fire has forced thousands of residents and tourists to flee.
More than 2,000 firefighters have been tackling the blaze, known as the Rim Fire, which has encroached into Yosemite National Park, one of the most popular tourist attractions in California. "We're in some real trouble here."
+ The California wildfire reached Yosemite National Park swallowing everything in its path. After burning for nearly a week on the edges of Yosemite, the massive wildfire of nearly 200 square miles has now crossed into it, and firefighters have barely begun to contain it.
The governor issued a declaration of emergency late Friday for San Francisco 150 miles away because of the threat the fire posed to utility transmission to the city, and the fire caused smoke warnings and event cancellations in Nevada as smoke blew over the Sierra Nevada and across state lines. Health district officials raised an air quality alert to the "red" unhealthy level, Friday afternoon in Reno, Nevada.
Yosemite stopped issuing backcountry permits to backpackers and had warned those who already had them to stay out of the area. The skies over Yosemite Valley were "crystal clear," however. "We just have to take one day at a time." The blaze did, however, pose a threat to the lines and stations that pipe power to the city of San Francisco. San Francisco gets 85 per cent of its water from the Yosemite-area Hetch Hetchy reservoir that is about 4 miles from the fire, though that had yet to be affected. But it was forced to shut down two of its three hydroelectric power stations in the area. The city has so far been able to buy power on the open market and use existing supplies, but further disruptions or damage could have an effect.
The 196-square-mile blaze was 5 per cent contained and more than 2,000 firefighters were on the lines. It continued to grow in several directions, although "most of the fire activity is pushing to the east right into Yosemite." The fire was threatening about 5,500 residences, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The blaze has destroyed four homes and 12 outbuildings in several different areas. It closed a 4-mile stretch of State Route 120, one of three entrances into Yosemite on the west side. Two other western routes and an eastern route were open.
Officials issued voluntary evacuation advisories for two new towns -- Tuolumne City, population 1,800, and Ponderosa Hills, a community of several hundred -- which are about five miles from the fire line. A mandatory evacuation order remained in effect for part of Pine Mountain Lake, a summer gated community a few miles from the fire. "It feels a little bit like a war zone, with helicopters flying overhead, bombers dropping retardant and 10 engine companies stationed on our street."
Officials previously advised voluntary evacuations of more than a thousand other homes, several organized camps and at least two campgrounds in the area outside the park's boundary. More homes, businesses and hotels are threatened in nearby Groveland, a community of 600 about 5 miles from the fire and 25 miles from the entrance of Yosemite. Usually filled with tourists, the streets are now swarming with firefighters, evacuees and news crews.
The fire is raging in the same region where a 1987 blaze killed a firefighter, burned hundreds of thousands of acres and forced several thousand people out of their homes.

Dry weather challenges Iowa and Illinois growers - Ereme weather is taking a toll on crops. UNUSUALLY DRY weather is coming at a bad time for corn and soybean growers.


WEEKEND GEOMAGNETIC STORMS? - NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% to 70% chance of polar geomagnetic storms this weekend. A CME ejected from the sun on Aug. 21 was expected to hit Earth's magnetic field on Aug. 24, with reverberations from the impact continuing through today, Aug. 25.