Friday, November 8, 2013

Global Disaster Watch - the latest earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, wildfires and record-breaking weather.

**Advice is what we ask for when
we already know the answer but wish we didn't.**
Erica Jong

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 11/7/13 -

Big quake near Fukushima would 'decimate Japan, lead to U.S. West Coast evacuation'. The stricken nuclear plant at Fukushima in northern Japan is in such a delicate condition that a future earthquake could trigger a disaster that would decimate Japan and affect the entire West Coast of North America, a prominent scientist has warned.
Speaking at a symposium on water ecology at the University of Alberta in Canada, the Japanese-Canadian scientist said that the Japanese government had been “lying through its teeth” about the true extent of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. He attributed the cover-up to the Japanese government’s collusion with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that administers the plant. “Fukushima is the most terrifying situation that I can imagine." Another earthquake could trigger a potentially catastrophic nuclear disaster.
“The fourth [reactor] has been so badly damaged that the fear is if there’s another earthquake of a 7 or above then that building will go and all hell breaks loose.” The chances of an earthquake measuring 7 or above in Japan over the next three years are over 95 percent.
“If the fourth [reactor] goes under an earthquake and those rods are exposed, then it’s bye, bye, Japan and everybody on the west coast of North America should be evacuated. And if that isn’t terrifying, I don’t know what is.” Addressing the Japanese government’s attempts to bring the crisis under control, he said the scientists charged with the plant’s safety “don’t know what to do.”
“The thing we need is to let a group of international experts go in with complete freedom to do what they suggest.” The only thing impeding this was the “pride” of the Japanese government that was refusing to admit this was necessary. He referred to the current scheme of freezing the soil around the reactor to prevent radioactive leaks as “cockamany.”
TEPCO has accepted the US government’s help in undertaking the risky cleanup operation of the Fukushima site. Teams of experts will begin the removal of fuel rods from the fourth reactor in mid-November in a decommissioning process that is likely to take decades. One wrong move in the delicate operation could result in horrific quantities of radiation being released into the atmosphere or trigger a massive explosion.
The risks of removing the rods to RT are “terribly serious” because of the danger of releasing a large amount of radiation. “Two rods could touch each other in this process which has been done before and there could be a fission reaction and a very large release of radiation.”
(The scientist quoted is a prominent environmental campaigner whose television science programs and books have gained a wide international audience, and who has been very vocal in his criticisms of Japan in its handling of the disaster. Despite his prominence in Canada, he has been criticized in the past by the media for double standards and his credentials as a scientist have been queried.
While his television programs encourage society to consume less fossil fuel and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, he reportedly lives in one of Vancouver’s most exclusive areas and has faced criticism over his globetrotting airplane travel. However, with regard to the current situation at Fukushima, a number of scientists have echoed his concerns.)
A nuclear technology historian says that there could easily be more destruction at the plant’s fourth reactor. “If this building were to collapse, which could happen, it would spill these spent nuclear fuel rods all over the ground which would make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics impossible and could threaten all kinds of health problems throughout northern Japan and Tokyo itself.”

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the Western Pacific -
- Super Typhoon Haiyan is located approximately 310 nm southeast of Manila, Philippines.
Monster Typhoon Haiyan roars into the Philipines - Category five Typhoon Haiyan is the strongest storm to hit the Pacific region this year. Typhoon Haiyan is battering the Philippines with sustained winds of 235 km/h (146mph). Meteorologists say that if initial estimates based on satellite images are borne out, it COULD BE THE MOST POWERFUL STORM EVER TO MAKE LANDFALL. The damage from Haiyan's winds must have been "perhaps the greatest wind damage any city on Earth has endured from a tropical cyclone in the past century".
Schools and offices have been closed in the path of the storm, and thousands of people have been evacuated amid fears of serious damage. The region was already struggling to recover from an earthquake last month. The category-five storm was centred 62km (40 miles) south-east of Guiuan, in the country's Eastern Samar province. The governor of the Southern Leyte province tweeted on Friday morning that fallen trees were blocking roads, hampering the relief effort. The storm is not expected to directly hit the capital Manila, further north.
"The wind here is whistling. It's so strong and the heavy downpours are continuing. "We've been hearing from my colleagues in [the city of] Tacloban that they've seen galvanised iron sheets flying just like kites. It's actually all around the roads now. The roads are flooded in Tacloba."
The typhoon, known locally as Yolanda, arrived with gusts of up to 275 km/h (170 mph). The US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre said shortly before Haiyan's landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 314 km/h (195 mph), with gusts up to 379 km/h (235 mph). Waves as high as 5m (15ft) could be seen from the islands of Leyte and Samar.
The storm is forecast to move over to the South China Sea north of Palawan Island on Saturday. In its path are areas already struggling to recover from a 7.3-magnitude earthquake last month, including the worst-hit island of Bohol. About 5,000 people are still living in tents in Bohol after losing their homes in the quake, which killed more than 200 people. Thousands of people from villages at risk across several provinces have been evacuated, while schools and offices have shut.
Meteorologists in the Philippines warned that Haiyan could be as devastating as Typhoon Bopha in 2012. Bopha devastated parts of the southern Philippines, leaving at least 1,000 people dead and causing more than $1bn (£620m) in damage. "This is a very dangerous typhoon, local officials know where the vulnerable areas are and have given instructions on evacuations. There are not too many mountains on its path to deflect the force of impact, making it more dangerous." It is the 25th typhoon to enter Philippine territory this year.
UPDATE - Powerful Typhoon Causes Mass Disruption in Philippines. One of the most powerful storms in recent history ripped through the Philippines Friday morning, killing at least three people, forcing the evacuation of thousands and putting millions of people at risk. Two people were killed in Cotabato province - an adult and a one-year-old - and a woman was fatally hit by a falling tree in Cebu.
Haiyan first bowled into fishing communities on the central island of Samar, about 600km southeast of Manila, earlier today with maximum sustained winds of 315km/h an hour. It is cutting across the central and southern Philippines and is expected to exit into the South China Sea then move on towards Vietnam late on Saturday. Authorities warned more than 12 million people were at risk from the typhoon. Its wind strength makes it equivalent to an exceptionally strong Category 5 hurricane.
Haiyan had winds of 190 - 195 mph at landfall, making it THE STRONGEST TROPICAL CYCLONE ON RECORD TO MAKE LANDFALL IN WORLD HISTORY. The previous record was held by the Atlantic's Hurricane Camille of 1969, which made landfall in Mississippi with 190 mph winds.
Extreme damage likely in the Philippines. Wind damage in Guiuan (population 47,000) must have been catastrophic, perhaps the greatest wind damage any city on Earth has endured from a tropical cyclone in the past century. A massive storm surge must have also caused great destruction along a 20-mile swath to the north of where the eye hit, where Project NOAH was predicting a 17’ (5.3 meter) storm tide.
Wind damage will also be extreme in Tacloban, population 221,000, the capital of the province of Leyte. Much of Tacloban is at elevations less than ten feet, and the most recent storm surge forecast made by the Philippines' Project NOAH calls for a storm tide (the combined height of the surge plus the tide) of 12’ (3.6 meters) in Tacloban. The northern (strong) part of Haiyan’s eyewall is now battering the southern part of the city. [ Nothing had been heard from Tacloban in 7+ hours. Also nothing from Guiuan, the first city hit.]
Haiyan’s winds, rains, and storm surge will cause widespread devastation throughout the Central Philippines during the day, though the storm’s fast forward speed of 25 mph will cut down on the total rainfall amounts, compared to typical typhoons that affect the Philippines. Hopefully, this will substantially recede the death toll due to flash flooding, which is usually the biggest killer in Philippine typhoons.
Once Haiyan exits into the South China Sea, it will steadily decay, due to colder waters and higher wind shear. However, it will still be a formidable Category 1 or 2 typhoon when it hits Vietnam and Laos, and the 12+ inches of rain that the storm will likely dump on those nations will make it a top-five most expensive natural disaster in their history.
Early on Thursday, Haiyan hit the island of Kayangel, 24 kilometres north of Palau's capital, Koror. Damage was heavy, with many homes damaged or destroyed, but there were no injuries among the island’s 69 inhabitants.


US weather forecaster sees neutral El Nino risk through spring - The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday it expected neutral El Nino weather conditions to persist in the Northern Hemisphere through spring. In its monthly report, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said that atmospheric and ocean conditions during October indicated the weather phenomenon was unlikely to cause extreme weather for the Northern Hemisphere through the spring.
Even so, the forecaster cautioned weather conditions could become more extreme. "Though confidence is highest for (conditions to be) neutral, there are growing probabilities for warm conditions" toward the spring and summer, the forecast said. The El Nino weather pattern is eyed with caution, as it can lead to flooding in the United States and South America and trigger drought conditions in Southeast Asia and Australia.


Space rock hit-rate vastly 'underestimated' - The threat of another asteroid strike like the one that hit Russia earlier this year is much higher than was previously thought, a study suggests. Researchers have found that space rocks of a similar size to the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk are hurtling into the Earth's atmosphere with surprising frequency. Scientists say early warning systems need to be put in place.
"Having some sort of system that scans the sky almost continuously and looks for these objects just before they hit the Earth, that probably is something worth doing. In the case of Chelyabinsk, a few days' to a week's warning would have been valuable." The asteroid that exploded over Russia on 15 February this year was estimated to be about 19m-wide. It hit the atmosphere with energy estimated to be equivalent to 500,000 tonnes of TNT, sending a shockwave twice around the globe. It caused widespread damage and injured more than 1,000 people.
Now though, scientists say there could be many more space rocks like this one on a collision course with the Earth. An international team looked at the last 20 years of data collected from sensors used by the US government and infrasound sensors positioned around the globe. The researchers found that during this time about 60 asteroids up to 20m in size had smashed into the Earth's atmosphere: far more than was previously thought. Most went undetected because they exploded over the ocean or in very remote areas.
This suggests that the risk from asteroids of this scale has been underestimated. The team estimates that the strike rate of asteroids that are tens of metres in size is between two and 10 times higher than was previously thought. "Something like Chelyabinsk, you would only expect every 150 years on the basis of the telescopic information. But when you look at our data and extrapolate from that, we see that these things seem to be happening every 30 years or so."
An event such as the Tunguska impact in 1908, where an asteroid flattened thousands of square kilometres of forest in Siberia, would probably happen every few hundred years rather than every few thousand years. Many people in Russia caught the Chelyabinsk meteor on camera.
"There are literally millions of objects in the tens-of-metres-of-size range that we suspect are near Earth asteroids, that can get close to the Earth. We have only discovered over 1,000 of these. There are many more of these to find, but it would be very expensive to find all of these and it probably wouldn't make a lot of sense because the atmosphere largely stops them. But what might make sense are systems that find something a few days or weeks before they hit... to tell you where on the Earth and when they will hit. That would allow some warning to be given to the civil defence authorities."
In another study, scientists believe they have traced the asteroid that the Chelyabinsk meteor splintered off from. They think it is a fragment of a 2km-wide rock called asteroid 86039. The orbits were "conspicuously similar", although the team could not prove "the common origin with absolute certainty".

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook - with breaking news during the day.