Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook

**Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.**
Walter Anderson

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or larger.

Yesterday, 9/10/13 -

9/9/13 -

Southern Australia is being rattled by hundreds of quakes - and scientists aren’t sure why. Scientists in Victoria are attempting to learn more about the increase in the number of earthquakes in the Gippsland region. Seismologists are describing the region as an earthquake hotspot. There were only 50 earthquakes recorded up until 2009, but since then there have been 700.
The activity has been particularly high in the Strzelecki Ranges which lie between the Latrobe Valley and the Gippsland coastline. Locals have been intrigued by the tremors for years. The motion in Gippsland is high. “There are other spots that are active for a period of time but they’re active for a geologically short period, maybe 100,000 years or something and they go quiet. And they’ve got no long term evidence of continued motion. Whereas the motion in Gippsland here, the rate of earthquake activity we have at the moment is high. The geology suggests that the average over the last few million years is probably even higher.”
There are eight seismographs planted in the ground along fault lines meters below the surface around Gippsland to monitor the tremors. They are so sensitive that they can record the vibrations of approaching footsteps. “We’ve had some good earthquakes come through here. You can hear them coming. It’s like an express train coming and the house shakes."
“One of the problems with living in an inactive area is firstly that your building standards don’t take serious consideration of the type of earthquake that is going to affect us. The way you try and avoid problems with earthquakes is you don’t want buildings to collapse under any circumstances so they have to be designed to withstand it.”

Indonesia - Mount Lokon in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, erupted again at 6:30 a.m. local time on Monday, spewing volcanic material from the Tompaluan Lokon crater up to 1,500 meters in the air. “The lava flow reached several northern area villages, namely Pineleng, Tanawangko and Tateli."
The explosion was heard as far away as Minahasa, which is 10 kilometers away from the volcano. Mt. Lokon has been erupting continuously for years, as such, for the local residents watching the volcano erupt is normal. Moreover, the volcanic materials have made the farming land in Tomohon fertile. The status of the volcanic activity remains at Siaga or “alert” (level 3). Mt. Lokon has erupted tens of times since the alert status was announced on July 24, 2011.

Ubinas volcano in southern Peru spewing dangerous ash. Villagers living near volcano fear for their livestock. Ubinas Volcano, located 70 kilometers outside of the southern city of Arequipa, has now erupted 10 times since its sudden reactivation one week ago.
Now scientists and inhabitants of the area are concerned about the effects of the ash and gases that the volcano has released into the air. The ash cloud, which has reached two kilometers in height, is made of very fine particles of silica. When ingested, silica can cause serious respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.
Earlier in the week, some residents of the nearby town of Querapi (which authorities are working to evacuate) had arrived at a local hospital complaining of vomiting, headaches, and stomach pain. Prolonged exposure to silica can cause dermatitis and eye damage. People living in the small towns surrounding the volcano have been issued disposable masks and goggles to protect sensitive organs from any potential problems caused by the silica ash.
Villagers are also concerned for the health of their livestock, who are a major source of income for rural families. In the district of Ubinas alone, there are an estimated 40,000 llamas and alpacas. Up to 15% of these animals could be seriously affected by the silica ash, which has contaminated their grazing areas.
Scientists have determined that the root of the eruptions is a buildup of underground water pressure caused by precipitation seeping into the volcanic crater, which scientists call a phreatic eruption. The volcano had previously been dormant since 2009. Authorities are looking for ways to relocate affected groups.


* In the Atlantic Ocean -
Tropical storm Gabrielle is located approximately 55 mi (90 km) S of Bermuda. Gabrielle has reformed and is strengthening. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Bermuda. Forecast to remain off the U.S. east coast but will likely bring heavy rain to the Canadian Maritime Provinces on Friday and Saturday.

Tropical storm Humberto is located about 270 mi (475 km) W of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands.

Tropical Storm Humberto is forecast to strengthen into the season's first hurricane today. It is predicted to curve north into cooler waters and not be a threat to land.

+ Assuming Humberto will make it to hurricane status today, we are two hurricanes behind the average season pace. August 10 is the average date the first Atlantic hurricane arrives, and the season's third hurricane usually develops by September 9. 2013 will likely end up ranking in 2nd place for latest formation of the season's first hurricane, going back to 1941. An average season brings six hurricanes, two of them being intense hurricanes.
The first half of 2013's hurricane season had one of the lowest Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) totals on record for the Atlantic. ACE is calculated as the square of the wind speed every 6 hours for every named storm with at least 40 mph sustained winds (scaled by a factor of 10,000 for usability.) Since the damage potential of a hurricane is proportional to the square or cube of the maximum wind speed, ACE is not only a measure of tropical cyclone activity, but also a measure of the damage potential. During the 20-year period 1981 - 2010, the Atlantic averaged 104 ACE units, and the 20-year average ACE through September 9 was 50. Through September 9 of 2013, we've managed just 9.6 ACE units, about 20% of average.
Forecast for the next two weeks: below average activity. But consider: the season with the greatest similarity to what we've seen during the first half of the 2013 season was 1988. That year, we also had unusual quietness before September 10, no El NiƱo, and above average ocean temperatures in the MDR. Yet the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever recorded up to that time ripped through the Caribbean, Hurricane Gilbert, as well as two other major hurricanes.

Philippines - Rain was forecast over Metro Manila and several parts of the country Wednesday, as state weather forecasters noted a potential cyclone, a low-pressure area, was spotted 1,210 kilometers east of Mindanao.


New Zealand - Wild winds and thunder storms which tore across the South Island on Monday have left a potentially multi-million dollar trail of destruction in their wake. The storm-force north-west winds - A RECORD 251.9 kilometres per hour was recorded on the Mt Hutt summit - sparked countless fires, uprooted trees, felled power lines, tore roofs off buildings and overturned a truck, while a lightning strike set a West Coast house on fire.
Vast areas of Canterbury were without power, including in Christchurch, Rangiora, Rolleston and Dunsandel, with outages affecting upwards of 28,000 people. The winds showed little sign of letting up into the night, with police urging extreme caution from debris flung on to roads. Fires were reported in scrub, sheds and homes throughout Canterbury all afternoon, many caused by downed power lines. Fire fighters were battling several major fires which were threatening homes on Sandy Knolls Rd, West Melton.
There was also many reports of roofs being torn of houses and trees falling on the road across Canterbury and South Canterbury. Problems had already peaked around 8pm, when a house fire was reported in Oxford, a shed caught fire in Kaiapoi, a blaze ignited in the Selwyn River bed and a tree fell on a fire truck near Dunsandel. Fire fighters struggled to keep up as the winds re-ignited fires they had already put out. "They're everywhere - Cave, Ashburton, Timaru, Rakaia, Mayfield, Sheffield . . . this is a severe event."
The fires were accompanied by ''major dust storms'' in southern parts of Canterbury. Trains were stopped on the Midland Line at Sheffield due to a fire on the railway tracks and poor visibility. Roads and highways were blocked at various times of the day due to felled trees and power lines. Things were ''absolutely frantic'' owing to the "extreme weather conditions. There's all sorts of problems with re-ignition due to the high winds."
Meanwhile on the West Coast, which was being pelted by heavy rain and thunderstorms for much of the day, fire crews were called to a Fox Glacier property set alight by a lightning strike. At 8.30pm, 11,582 customers around Canterbury were without power. Line faults had mostly been centred in rural Canterbury, where trees had brought down power lines and power poles had snapped.
The RECORD-BREAKING WIND GUST of 251.9 kilometres per hour recorded on the summit of Mt Hutt at 4.23pm yesterday broke their previous record of 238kph logged in January. On the mainland, Fairlie had recorded 119 kph, Timaru and Ashburton had reached 110 kph and Lyttelton about 75 kph. Christchurch lagged behind at about 65 kph, but it was expected to reach about 90 kph. ''We're expecting it to ease away through South Canterbury overnight and dying Wednesday morning in North Canterbury.''
''It's reasonably spectacular - the whole house is shaking. The kids have just come home and they've seen power lines down, lamp posts down and trees down.'' "It's the biggest winds we've ever seen here." (video)


+ Australia - Video (1:41) - Out of control Sydney wildfires.


Officials report 8 new Saudi MERS cases - 3 fatal. Saudi Arabia has now reported 12 cases in 3 days, and experts show mixed levels of concern.
Of the 12 case-patients, at least 7 had contact with a confirmed MERS patient or worked in a hospital with another confirmed case-patient. The WHO-confirmed global total has now reached 114 MERS cases and 54 deaths. The 8 new Saudi cases would bring the total to 122 cases and 57 deaths.
Reaction from experts to news of the cases ranged from reassuring to concerned. "The number of cases reported by the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] has remained relatively constant over the last 3 months, while no new countries have reported cases other than the four previously implicated as the sources for infection. We are monitoring the situation closely to determine if there is any evidence for change in the basic epidemiology of the situation."
Infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm, however, expressed concern over the news of more MERS cases. "These cases represent more evidence that there is ongoing transmission in a way that we don't understand. Every time we have new cases, there's a greater risk of this virus becoming a serious global public health issue." Osterholm is director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
He said that public health professionals have more information than they had 4 months ago, but important gaps in information exist and Saudi reports are sorely lacking in detail. "How long till one of these satellite cases — those that are acquired in the Middle East that seek medical care outside the Middle East — ends up in a part of the world that doesn't have healthcare with good infection control? We would have a Metropole Hotel kind of event." The Metropole, in Hong Kong, was where a guest infected with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) transmitted the virus to other guests, who then transmitted it around the world 10 years ago.
Reflecting on the often murky flow of information from Saudi Arabia, he said, "The question is, who is really in charge of bringing this outbreak under control? What's the end-game plan?" Osterholm said investigations need to determine how much disease spread entails human-to-human transmission, how much involves isolated cases that flare up, and what role animals play in disease spread. None of that information is currently known.
"Both medical experts and the media are growing impatient at the erratic flow of information on MERS, and I hear rumours that Saudi hospital staff are as alarmed as those in Canadian hospitals afflicted with SARS ten years ago. And well they might be, when this virus seems to thrive in healthcare settings. "An aggressive, open communication policy is now urgently called for."

Nepal's bird flu outbreaks may rattle entire economy - The poultry industry in Nepal has lost more than 7 billion rupees (more than $100 million) because of a rash of H5N1 avian flu outbreaks in the Kathmandu Valley and other areas recently, which could have reverberations through the country's economy.
Insecurity in the poultry sector has resulted in thousands of large and small poultry farmers to abandon the business, which accounts for about 4% of Nepal's gross domestic product. The outbreaks have set the industry back 40 years. Consumption of poultry has fallen in the country, not because of bird deaths but because of rumors in the market. Nepal's government has been criticized by some observers for a lack of effective steps to control the outbreaks. Farmers are calling for relief packages, including subsidized loans.

New bird flu 'has unique traits' - The new flu which has emerged in China has unique traits, say scientists. It is able to infect both the nose, giving it the potential to spread easily, and penetrate deep in the lungs where it causes pneumonia. The twin attack has not been detected in previous bird flus.
There have been 135 people infected with avian influenza A(H7N9) and 44 deaths since the outbreak started in Spring. However, restrictions on live poultry markets have largely curbed the number of infections.


ALMOST-BLANK SUN - 2013 is supposed to be a year of solar maximum. Indeed, the sun's magnetic field is poised to flip, a long-held sign that Solar Max has arrived. But if this is Solar Max, it looks a lot like Solar Min. The face of the sun is almost completely blank:
In fact, this is Solar Max, the WEAKEST ONE IN MORE THAN 50 YEARS. Long spells of quiet and spotlessness are punctuated by occasional flares and CMEs. At least one researcher believes the ongoing maximum is actually double-peaked, and we are now experiencing the valley between peaks. If so, a surge in solar activity could be in the offing in late-2013 and 2014.