Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook - with new items posted during the day.

**Fortune knocks but once,
but misfortune has much more patience.**

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 9/2/13 -

Alaska - Dozens of noticeable aftershocks above magnitude 4.0 are expected in the remote Aleutian Island region off Alaska in the days and and weeks following the major 7.0 earthquake, the Alaska state seismologist said Saturday.
A dozen measurable aftershocks have already hit the region since Friday's quake, including one reaching magnitude 6.1 in strength which hit on Friday night. There have been more than 30 aftershocks measuring at least magnitude 2.5. None of the aftershocks are expected to cause a notable tsunami, since the initial quake did not cause one. And experts are not too worried this quake will trigger another significant quake nearby in the near future.
“This is a very common area for earthquakes." Temblors above magnitude 5.0 are felt every month. The site of Friday's quake is quite active. Significant quakes were felt just to the east and the west of Friday's earthquake in 1986, 1996 and 2003. “This was exactly the earthquake that's supposed to happen.” The Pacific tectonic plate is always pushing under America. It builds up stress and then earthquakes happen.
There have been no reports of damage or injuries from the earthquake, which was strongly felt in Atka, an Aleut community of 64 people, and the larger Aleutian town of Adak, where 320 people live. The earthquake and the aftershocks didn't trigger any tsunami warnings, but the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center is monitoring for potential tsunamis caused by landslides, either on land or under water.

Fuego volcano (Guatemala) - Increasing lava emission with pyroclastic flows. A phase of increased lava flow activity occurred Monday morning from about 6 am local time, generating a series of pyroclastic flows that descended several ravines on different, but mostly the southwestern side of the volcano.
The volcano has been in moderate effusive activity for at least the past two weeks, feeding relatively small lava flows on the upper steep slope. A sudden increase in effusion rate seems to have caused the destabilization of the lava flows, generating rockfalls that turned into pyroclastic flows. The lava flows have quickly increased from previously 200 m to about 2 km length. The surge of magma supply is also suggested by the appearance of strong tremor pulses the previous night.
In the meanwhile, explosive (strombolian) activity from the summit vent has remained weak. An ash plume rising as a by-product of the pyroclastic flows was reported to about 12,000 ft (3.6 km) altitude

Did a Volcanic Eruption Induce the Midwest 'Julytober'? - This summer, the Midwest experienced a cold wave referred to as "Julytober" following the June eruption of Mount Sheveluch in Russia. Experts continue to compare this eruption to others from history and debate whether it could have induced the cooler Midwestern weather.
"Large Russian volcano eruptions tend to cool the Midwest." When a volcano erupts, if it is large enough, it can send debris miles into the stratosphere. The stratosphere is the atmosphere above where weather takes place. Debris sent into the stratosphere by an eruption can include volcanic ash, chemicals and gases, specifically sulfur. This debris can influence temperatures by aiding in a decreased amount of solar radiation.
"Sulfur dioxide combines with water in the atmosphere to provide sulfuric acid aerosol droplets that reflect incoming solar radiation." However, this is only the initial effect, the large effects of an eruption are not always immediate. Following an eruption, debris can build in the stratosphere over time and linger for years after.
Large eruptions that inject several millions of tons of sulfur gases high into the atmosphere are known to change the weather. Sulfur dioxide gas can disrupt monsoons and cause winter warming of the Northern Hemisphere continents. The most recent example of this phenomena was exhibited by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo sent debris 15-20 miles high into the stratosphere, producing massive cloud coverage from the North Pole to 20 degrees south of the equator. As a result, the globe cooled by one half of one degree.
Although the eruption of Mount Sheveluch in June was minor compared to previous eruptions like Mount Pinatubo, two years before in 2011 there were two big eruptions in Russia and Iceland. These eruptions launched high amounts of debris into the air that still remain present today. With a lot of debris already existent in the atmosphere, the addition of the debris from Mount Sheveluch may have then had the ability to possibly influence temperatures by blocking out sunlight.
While volcano experts agree that it is possible for an eruption to influence temperature, as observed in the historic "the year without a summer" in 1816 resulting from the disastrous 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, most do not believe that the June Russian eruption was massive enough to impact temperatures. "It is highly unlikely that the modest eruptions of Mount Sheveluch have contributed in a significant manner."
Regardless of the debated effects of Mount Sheveluch's eruption on Midwestern weather, the AccuWeather fall forecast predicts continued cool weather for the Midwest states into September. An early frost or freeze is possible for the region as temperatures are expected to drop to the mid- to low 30s. Heading into late October and November, even colder weather is predicted, making an early snowfall possible for the area.


In the Eastern Pacific -
Post-tropical cyclone Kiko is located about 425 mi (685 km) W of the southern tip of Baja California. The remnant low is expected to dissipate by Wednesday. The last advisory has been issued on this system.

In the Western Pacific -
Tropical storm Toraji is located approximately 263 nm south-southwest of Sasebo, Japan.


Toraji, the year's 17th tropical storm, is approaching the sea area around the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Toraji is forecast to strike Japan on Thursday, September 5.

+ Superstorm steering winds look less likely in future - The winds that steered Superstorm Sandy straight into the East Coast look less likely to return in the future, suggests a climate forecast out Monday.
The largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, Sandy smashed ashore near Atlantic City, N.J., on Oct. 29. As Jersey Shore boardwalks collapsed and New York City subway tunnels flooded, 117 people died, most often from drowning, in the $65 billion U.S. disaster.
Sandy had reached major hurricane strength near Cuba in October, before it headed north. Along with its 1,100 mile-wide width, one thing that made Sandy so UNUSUAL was the storm’s track, marked by a sharp, sudden westward swerve into the East Coast. Most hurricanes instead skirt the coast on a northeasterly heading, often spinning out to sea once they reach Mid-Atlantic latitudes.
The role that global warming played in the disaster became part of the debate in the aftermath of the storm, with Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine blaring, “It’s the Global Warming, Stupid,” on its cover immediately afterward. “A lot of speculation after Sandy was that its steering winds were some sort of ‘new normal’ caused by a warming climate.”
Researchers looked into whether Sandy-like steering winds look more or less likely by 2100. “We wanted to test that idea, and what we have found is that the steering winds actually look LESS frequent in the next century." Previous estimates suggest that Sandy’s westerly lurch into the New Jersey coast was a 1-in-700 year occurrence. It was driven by east-moving jet stream winds that were bottled up by two “blocking” weather patterns over the Atlantic Ocean. With the jet stream pushing Sandy out to sea blocked, westward-headed winds at lower altitudes essentially shoved Sandy ashore.
Overall, the models show the eastward-moving jet stream strengthening in the Mid-Atlantic, and the weather-blocking patterns becoming less frequent in at least 17 out of 22 forecasts of the future. All of that means more hurricanes headed out to sea, not into the coast. Concludes the study: “Future atmospheric conditions are less likely than at present to propel storms westward into the coast.”
“My interpretation is that Sandy was a RARE event, and this looks like a reasonable approach to say some of the mixture of conditions that led to it look less likely in the century ahead.” Still, that doesn’t mean a Sandy-like storm won’t happen again, as the study is talking about the weather over a century’s time. “Just because something has 1-in-700 odds doesn’t mean you are safe for the next 700 years.”
And regardless of the steering winds, the study says nothing about whether hurricanes will become more or less frequent due to global warming. “That’s another piece of the puzzle." While most climate projections see fewer big Atlantic hurricanes resulting from global warming, recent studies by researchers have suggested it might trigger more.
The two things could then balance out; more hurricanes might see fewer strong westward-aimed winds on the East Coast in decades ahead, leaving the odds of another Sandy-like storm even. “All we can say now is that the atmospheric conditions that steered Sandy ashore look less likely to be frequent in the future."


+ The crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant "has not ended", the country's nuclear watchdog has warned, saying the situation there is "unstable". Watchdog chief Shunichi Tanaka also accused the plan's operator of careless management during the crisis. He added that it may not be possible to avoid dumping some contaminated water into the ocean.
The comments come a day before the Japanese government is due to unveil plans to rescue the clean-up operation. Fukushima's operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), said radiation levels near one tank were 18 times higher than previously thought. However, reports that this level of radiation could be lethal to workers after four hours of exposure were exaggerated. "Supposing the figure of 1,800 millisieverts per hour is correct, it is beta radiation. It will not penetrate as long as there is a 5-10 millimetre-thick plastic shield or you wear leather shoes."
News of the leaks have fuelled anti-nuclear protests in Japan in recent weeks. The damage to the plant from the 2011 tsunami has necessitated the constant pumping of water to cool the reactors. The process creates an extra 400 tonnes of contaminated water every day. It was revealed last month that some of that water was leaking from storage tanks at the site.
The only long-term solution to the problem of contaminated water was to filter it and that it might "not be possible to avoid dumping it in to the sea". That will be extremely unpopular with local fishermen and possibly with Japan's neighbours. The latest leak is believed to be the fourth major leak from storage tanks at Fukushima since 2011 and the worst so far in terms of volume. Experts have said the scale of water leakage may be worse than officials have admitted.
Japan is going to invest $473 million dollars to stop leaks of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant. The leaks are getting worse and the government "felt it was essential to become involved to the greatest extent possible."
Under the government plan, a wall of frozen earth will be created around the reactors using pipes filled with coolant to prevent groundwater coming into contact with contaminated water being used to cool fuel rods. Water treatment systems will also be upgraded to tackle the build-up of contaminated water. "The world is closely watching whether we can dismantle the (Fukushima) plant, including the issue of contaminated water." The funding pledge comes days before a decision is due on the host nation for the 2020 summer Olympic Games, for which Tokyo is a candidate.
Meanwhile, one of Japan's only two nuclear reactors still online was shut down on Tuesday for mandatory inspections. (photo)


There could be at least 320,000 viruses awaiting discovery that are circulating in animals, a study suggests. Researchers say that identifying these viral diseases, especially those that can spread to humans, could help to prevent future pandemics. The team estimates that this could cost more than $6 billion, but says this is a fraction of the cost of dealing with a major pandemic.
Nearly 70% of viruses that infect humans, such as HIV, Ebola and the new Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), originate in wildlife. But until now, the scale of the problem has been difficult to assess. By studying 1,897 samples collected from bats, scientists were able to assess how many other pathogens the animal carried. They found nearly 60 different types of viruses, most of which had never been seen before.
The team then extrapolated this figure to all known mammals, and concluded there were at least 320,000 viruses that have not yet been detected. The researchers said that identifying all of these would be crucial to keeping one step ahead of diseases that could become a threat to human health. Identifying all novel viruses in animals could take 10 years.
"Obviously we cannot survey every animal on the planet, but we can try and map as best as we can using a concept referred to as hotspots. We look at areas where we know, based on previous experience, there is a high likelihood that new infectious agents will emerge or will pose considerable threat to human health....Despite what looks like an extraordinary expense to pursue this kind of work, it really pales in comparison with what one might learn that could lead to very rapid recognition and intervention that could come to the fore with a pandemic risk. The idea is to develop an early warning system.
A related project called PREDICT has so far discovered 240 new viruses in areas of the world where people and animals live in close contact. "But we should remember, bats adopt a lifestyle that's particularly helpful to viruses - they live in large communities, they are dispersed throughout the world and they fly very large distances. Whether or not other mammals carry a similar array of viruses is an important question to ask, and no doubt one that the researchers are looking into...The number of potential virus reservoirs is huge - there are more than a thousand different species of bat alone - and adequately screening these and other animals for viral threats would be challenging to say the least."