Friday, October 18, 2013

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**Sometimes good things fall apart
so better things can fall together.**
Marilyn Monroe

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 10/17/13 -

Bohol quake is a warning of things to come, experts warn - Experts warn that many parts of the Philippines - including the nation's densely-populated capital - are long overdue for major earthquakes, and we can't entirely be sure where the next big one will strike. But one thing is for certain: it's only a matter of time.
Thr Laboratory Head of the Structural Geology and Tectonics of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences laments the lack of comprehensive knowledge about the country's numerous geologic faults. The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shook Central Visayas on October 15 was a relatively RARE event, but other parts of the country are also due for similar quakes. “Bohol and Cebu earthquakes have been relatively rare, considering that the entire Philippine archipelago is earthquake-prone except for Palawan.”
On Wednesday, Phivolcs said that a newly-discovered fault might be the source of the Visayas earthquake. Phivolcs identified the quake's real epicenter as being located between the municipality of Catigbian and Sagbayan in Bohol, and not in the town of Carmen, as was previously thought. However, immediately associating the recent earthquake in Bohol with an underlying fault is still a tentative hypothesis. There are many unidentified faults in the Bohol region and elsewhere, which makes the identification of the origin of the earthquake “a little bit tricky”. As a parallel example, they cited the 7.7-magnitude earthquake in Northern Luzon in 1990. There were no recorded faults in the area when this quake hit, killing 1,621 people across the region. Moreover, Phivolcs' reassessment of the quake's epicenter coincides with initial data from the US Geological Survey: in its summary page for the Bohol quake, the agency located the epicenter at 2km northeast of Catigbian.
Old churches and shrines in Bohol were not designed to be earthquake prone. “Assuming that churches in Bohol were done through sound construction practices, the damages were done not because of material but because (of the) design.” Old churches don't have rebars: metal skeletons that serve as the foundation of a structure that holds it together. Instead, they were built by piling up blocks of limestone one on top of another. Restoring the churches in Bohol will take years.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the Western Pacific -
- Typhoon Francisco is located approximately 152 nm west of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
Tropical storm summary -
+ Category 2 Typhoon Francisco strengthening. It is steadily intensifying over the warm waters of the Western Pacific about 160 miles southwest of Guam. The typhoon is expected to make its closest approach to Guam on Friday morning (local time), bringing sustained winds of 35 - 45 mph and heavy rain, as the storm heads north-northeast at 9 mph.
Continued strengthening is likely, and Francisco is forecast to become a major Category 4 typhoon by Saturday as it turns northwest towards Japan. Models predict that Francisco will hit Japan on Wednesday or Thursday next week, though there is very high uncertainty in the storm's track that far into the future.
Francisco's formation gives the Western Pacific 27 named storms so far in 2013, which is the average number of named storms for an entire year. The last time there were more than 27 tropical storms or typhoons in the Western Pacific was in 2004, when there were 32.

The Atlantic is quiet - None of the reliable computer models for forecasting tropical cyclone genesis is predicting development over the next five days. During the last few days of October and the first week of November, the Madden Julian Oscillation, a pattern of increased thunderstorm activity near the Equator that moves around the globe in 30 - 60 days, is predicted to transition into a phase that WILL bring an increase in upward-moving air over the Atlantic, boosting the odds of tropical storm formation. The most likely area for formation will be in the Western Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico.

Cyclone Phailin - 647 villages still marooned in Odisha, India on Wednesday. Though the flood situation in Odisha's five northen districts triggered by Cyclone Phailin and resultant rains slightly improved on Wednesday, people of 647 villages continued to be marooned, while the death toll in the twin calamities stood at 28.
With water level in major rivers receding, the state government decided to demobilise defence forces comprising personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force. "Flood situation has improved except in four blocks - Basta, Bhograi, Jaleswar and Baliapal of Balasore district and waters receded in eight other blocks." Flood water has also receded in Mayurbhanj, Bhadrak, Jajpur and Keonjhar and the government has decided to stop air dropping of food packets as all area are now approachable by motor boats.
About 96,000 flood-affected people of Balasore district are now sheltered in relief camps. In Jajpur district, though flood waters remained stagnant in 66 villages under 24 gram panchayats, they are approachable by boat and roads. About 70 villages of Bhadrak district were still flooded. "We expect fresh floods in 30 villages of four gram panchayats under Chandbali block of Bhadrak as water of river Baitarani would flow into the sea through this channel." 1.73 lakh people were evacuated in the wake of the floods in Subarnarekha, Budhabalang, Baitarani and Jalaka rivers. The government has expedited restoration work in Ganjam and other cyclone-hit districts and a timeline has been fixed for completion of works.
After Cyclone Phailin, epidemic threat in Ganjam - Odisha's Ganjam district now faces the threat of epidemic as debrisis yet to be cleared even six days after Cyclone Phailin left behind its trail of destruction.

Evacuation could have saved lives in Japan typhoon. Some 1,100 rescuers were searching through huge piles of trees and destroyed homes swept downhill by mudslides, shouting in hopes of finding survivors. The search was hampered by the slippery mud. More than 350 homes were damaged or destroyed, including 283 on Izu Oshima island.
Town officials issued repeated warnings of river flooding early Wednesday morning, during the worst of the torrential downpour, but stopped short of ordering any areas evacuated. The damage was almost exclusively concentrated in the town of Motomachi on the northwest corner of the island, which sits on slightly steeper ground. "That caught us by surprise. " The Motomachi area survived past record-level storms. "So we hardly had any sense of crisis."

+ Mexico - Floods devastated Acapulco. Catastrophic flooding last month drove crocodiles onto the streets of the Mexican beach resort and turned much of it into a mud bath, but gangland violence and looming bankruptcy last year had already all but obliterated the glitter of Acapulco.
The rains brought by tropical storms Manuel and Ingrid have pole-axed Guerrero's economy, with total damages exceeding 18 billion pesos ($1.4 billion) - equivalent to 9 percent of the state's annual economic output. "The city of Acapulco doesn't have the economic means to sort this out. We can't."
Acapulco was still battling to contain the gang violence when in September it was hit hard by THE WORST STORM DAMAGE EVER in Mexico. The rains swamped the city's airport, stranding thousands of tourists who are crucial to the health of the local economy. Roads to Acapulco closed, and the average hotel occupancy rate fell to under 20 percent in the weeks after the disaster.
The road is open again and much of the mess has been cleaned up, but occupancy rates have yet to recover. Last week it hovered at less than half the 2012 average of 49 percent - a RECORD LOW. Weeks later, Acapulco's hotels have bought up ads in national newspapers offering two-for-one deals. The message is simple: Even more than sending food parcels, the best way to help is to come spend money.

Link between African dust and fewer Atlantic tropical storms - Saharan particles from parched desert region called a major factor by researchers. A burst of African dust in June, pouring over tropical regions of the Atlantic, appears to be a major reason this hurricane season has been remarkably subdued so far.
What might be a plus for Florida, the most storm-battered state in the nation: the dust might flare up a cyclical basis. If so, potentially, future seasons might be tempered as well. “There definitely seems to be a link, when you have more dust, you have fewer tropical cyclones. We might see more consistent and larger dust outbreaks.”
So far, only two hurricanes have emerged this year, Humberto and Ingrid, and both were relatively weak Category 1 systems. Normally, five hurricanes, including two major ones, have developed by the first week in October. Scientists say vast amounts of dry air have worked to keep hurricanes from forming, as tropical systems require warm moist conditions to intensify. As a result, August and September, when the most powerful storms tend to emerge near Africa, were oddly quiet this year.
Experts still aren’t sure what created all the dry air, but Saharan dust outbreaks are emerging as a likely factor. Early in the season, an enormous amount of dust floated over the Atlantic region where storms normally develop, making the TROPICAL ATMOSPHERE THE DRIEST IT'S BEEN IN THREE DECADES. “That’s remarkable, because since the 1980s there have been several remarkably dry years."
Saharan dust outbreaks occur when clouds of particles are lifted from the parched desert region of north Africa and carried west by the winds. The dust clouds most commonly arise in July and August and can spread across the entire Southeast as far as Texas. It’s possible that strong high pressure over Africa generated the winds that produced the ABNORMAL AMOUNT OF DUST. It’s also possible that a natural cycle might be at play, as the same thing happened in the early 1980s, drying out the Atlantic for several years in that decade. “There may be some kind of background cycle, and we just don’t understand it. It’s possible that we could return to a regime like the one in the ’80s.”
Another atmospheric feature that helped keep things calm this year was the Bermuda High, an area of high-pressure that normally sits over the western Atlantic during the hurricane season; it steered the dust over the tropics. Now that it’s October, when storms commonly form in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic, it’s unlikely African dust will weaken any storms that appear during the rest of the season.
“Unfortunately, there’s no nice database we can refer to say, exactly, how much dust was in the air this summer and fall. But, based on what I’ve seen, I would say that the Saharan dust outbreaks this year were stronger and penetrated farther south and west than normal.” So far this year, there have been 11 Saharan dust outbreaks strong enough float across the Atlantic and reach South Florida and the Caribbean. Africa produces three-quarters of the dust particles that circulate around the globe. “It is a major phenomenon. It is a huge amount of material that is being lifted as dust from Africa.”
Meanwhile, the dust caused some elevated air quality readings in South Florida over the summer, but nothing dangerous. Several bouts of rain apparently kept the air clean. “We had some readings that were higher than normal. But we didn’t have to put out any health advisories. We didn’t see anything exceptional this summer, compared to previous years.”


Australia wildfires raze homes - A series of major wildfires are burning in the Australian state of New South Wales, with fears that hundreds of homes have been destroyed. Fire crews are still tackling the blazes on the outskirts of Sydney, despite temperatures and winds easing. One man has died while trying to protect his home.
Bushfires are common in Australia but THEY HAVE COME EARLIER THAN NORMAL THIS YEAR, sparking concerns of further problems to come. The NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner said the fire situation was the WORST HE HAD SEEN IN MORE THAN A DECADE and the threat was unlikely to ease for some time. "We've got thousands of kilometres of fire front that we are faced with trying to deal with." Hundreds of residents spent Thursday night in evacuation centres, with many returning home to find their houses razed. Firefighters described FIRES AS TALL AS 20 to 30m (100 feet).
Around 2,000 firefighters across the state worked to try and contain the fires but many are still burning out of control. The fires have been caused by unseasonably hot temperatures and strong winds. While these have now died down, more hot weather is forecast next week.Some of the worst affected areas are in the Blue Mountains around 70km (45 miles) west of Sydney. "It's been an awful 24 hours for the Blue Mountains [region]. We've lost possibly scores of homes."
The situation remains "very active, very dynamic, very dangerous", despite the cooler conditions. Around 500 sq km (200 sq miles) has been burnt out so far. "We've had a number of fires through here before but this was an EXTRAORDINARY FIRE. The speed was extraordinary, it just raced through this whole area, took out some houses, left other ones standing."
The NSW Premier praised the response from fire crews, calling the fires "some of the worst we have experienced around Sydney in living memory. We're in for a long, tough summer." The fires have come UNUSUALLY EARLY. "It's... a combination of a couple years of quite wet summers and winters which have allowed the bush to continue to grow at high rates, and also prevented us undertaking as many hazard reduction burns as we'd like." Smoke and ash from the wildfires blanketed the Sydney skyline on Thursday. New South Wales was also hit by bush fires in September, which injured several firefighters. (map & video at link)
+ Wildfire video


Access to technology aids survival in natural disasters - Widespread access to mobile phones in the Philippines is credited with saving many lives during Typhoon Bopha. Some of the countries most prone to natural disasters also have least access to life-saving communications and technology, a major study says.
Such access has a major impact on people's ability to prepare for, survive and recover from disasters. In the Philippines, for example, 99% of people can access a mobile phone. Text messaging and Twitter saved many lives in the 2012 typhoon. "Typhoon Bopha affected 6.3 million people in the Philippines, and thousands of lives were saved because 99% of the population have access to a mobile phone and could receive early warnings and information on staying safe."
Other examples of technology helping save lives or aid recovery include the use of text messages to deliver hurricane warnings in Haiti and a computerised barcode system to monitor the distribution of humanitarian supplies in Syria.
While "the overall number of people affected by disasters decreased in 2012, the number of people affected in the poorest countries increased, with over 31.7 million people affected". "They are also often the ones with the least access to technology."