Thursday, November 14, 2013

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

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Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 11/13/13 -
6.1 SCOTIA SEA (south of Chile)

In 1985, on November 13, after 69 years of dormancy, the Nevado del Ruiz stratovolcano's eruption caught nearby Columbian towns unaware, even though the government had received warnings from multiple volcanological organizations to evacuate the area, because volcanic activity had been detected in September. As pyroclastic flows erupted from the volcano’s crater, they melted the mountain’s glaciers, sending four enormous lahars (volcanically induced mudslides, landslides, and debris flows) down its slopes at 40 miles per hour. The mudslides killed 23,000 people.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

No current tropical storms.

Aerial footage shows the scale of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippine cities of Tanuan and Tacloban, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. The Head of the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute, says such an "immense" disaster would test the most seasoned governments in the developed world. She said: "The international community needs to resist the urge to be affected by the 'saviour syndrome', to come in and think they can duplicate the structures and do better without the government." (video)
A remarkable warming of the sub-surface Pacific waters east of the Philippines in recent decades, due to a shift in atmospheric circulation patterns and ocean currents that began in the early 1990s, could be responsible for the rapid intensification of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Hurricanes are heat engines, which means they take heat energy out of the ocean, and convert it to kinetic energy in the form of wind.
It's well-known that tropical cyclones need surface water temperatures of at least 26.5°C (80°F) to maintain themselves, and that the warmer the water, and the deeper the warm water is, the stronger the storm can get. Deep warm water is important, since as a tropical cyclone tracks over the ocean, it stirs up cooler water from the depths, potentially reducing the intensity of the storm.
When both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita exploded into Category 5 hurricanes as they crossed over a warm eddy in the Gulf of Mexico with a lot of deep, warm water, the concept of the total heat energy available to fuel a hurricane - the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential (TCHP) - became one that gained wide recognition. The Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines has the largest area of deep, warm water of anywhere on Earth, and these waters have historically fueled the highest incidence of Category 5 storms of anywhere on the planet.
Super Typhoon Haiyan tracked over surface waters that were of near-average warmth, 29.5 - 30.5°C (85 - 87°F.) However, the waters at a depth of 100 meters (328 feet) beneath Haiyan during its rapid intensification phase were a huge 4 - 5°C (7 - 9°F) above average. As the typhoon stirred this UNUSUALLY WARM WATER to the surface, the storm was able to feed off the heat, allowing Haiyan to intensify into one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever observed.
The warm-up is due to an increase in the surface winds blowing across the region - the trade winds - which have caused a southward migration and strengthening of the North Equatorial Current (NEC) and the North Equatorial Counter Current (NECC). The strong trade winds have pushed a large amount of water up against the east coast of the Philippines in the past twenty years, resulting in a rate of sea level rise of 10 mm per year - more than triple the global average of 3.1 mm/yr .
This extra sea level rise contributed to the storm surge damage from Super Typhoon Haiyan. Sea level rise data from Legaspi in the Eastern Philippines shows a rise of about 305 mm (12 inches) since 1949. For comparison, global average sea level rose 7.5" (190 mm) since 1901. Part of the rise along the eastern Philippine coast is from tectonic processes - the subsidence of the Philippine plate under the Eurasian plate - but most of it is due to the stronger trade winds piling up warm water along the coast, and the fact that warmer waters expand, raising sea level.
There may also be a greater chance of super typhoons and higher storm surges affecting the Philippines, due to the warmer sub-surface waters and re-arranged ocean currents.
As Typhoon Yolanda [Haiyan] hit, wall of water was unwatched threat - Two days before the typhoon hit, officials rolled through Tacloban with bullhorns, urging residents to get to higher ground or take refuge in evacuation centers. Warnings were broadcast on state television and radio. Some left. Some didn't.
Residents steeled themselves for the high winds, floods and mudslides that routinely come with the typhoons that afflict this tropical nation. But virtually no one was prepared for Typhoon Yolanda's storm surge, a 6-meter-high (20-foot-high) wall of water headed straight for them. "It was supposed to be safe," said a resident who stayed in her one-room house more than half a kilometer (mile) inland. She had heard the warnings but said her Tacloban neighborhood "has never even flooded in my 61 years."
Her family stocked up on canned food, water and candles and covered their TV, laptops and appliances in plastic bags. But when her 16-year-old daughter awoke at 5 a.m. Friday to howling winds and heavy rain, it was clear that Haiyan was not a typical storm. The house was shaking. Its wooden door frame and window hinges were banging. Peeking through the windows, they saw doors and screens flying and crashing. Their neighborhood was coming apart.
Water began seeping in through the doorway. Then it burst through like an explosion, ripping half the door off and quickly flooding the room with knee-high water. Within minutes, it was chest-high. By now, the family was on the dining table, watching in horror. They glanced at the ceiling as the precious pocket of air grew smaller. They thought of escaping, but one couldn't swim.
As they stood on their dining table, they contemplated their own deaths. They were still amazed by the flood. No typhoon could cause this. Then her mother was splashed by water on her lips. It was salty. It dawned on them: This was from the sea. Fish flittered across her back, and she recoiled in a panic.
The family was at their very limit, and so, thankfully, was the storm. The water stopped rising, and began, very slowly, to recede. Their neighborhood, of barber shops and restaurants and homes and streets filled with small buses was gone. There was only a vast sea of debris: wooden beams filled with nails, shattered toilets and glass, concrete rubble, uprooted trees, twisted power transformers. Survivors wandered, dazed and wounded, covered in mud and grime. Many were barefoot with seeping gashes in their feet and bruises all over. Some covered their wounds with cloth, or diapers. "Tacloban was unrecognizable. It was as if Tacloban never existed at all."
It would be more than a day before the outside world knew what had happened. Yolanda was among the most powerful typhoons on record when it struck, with wind estimates at landfall as high as 315 kph (195 mph). But the first news reports hours later suggested that it had moved across the islands so fast that the country might have escaped a major catastrophe. The reality was that Tacloban and other hard-hit communities had been cut off, with electricity and cell phone towers knocked out.
There was something else in the flatted landscape: corpses. And five days after Haiyan leveled Tacloban, many are still there. Scores of them lay at roadsides for authorities to retrieve, covered with whatever people could find - corrugated iron rooftop slabs, wooden planks, cardboard, a broken desk drawer. Two bodies wrapped in white tarps lay on a bus-stop bench. Another sat on the ground below. One orange dump truck moved through the city to collect the remains. Emergency workers unloaded a dozen of them at building that once sold souvenirs. In all, there were more than 170 bodies in black bags, spread side by side.
The worries, in Talcoban and around the world, had been on the wind much more than the water. That's why many of the 800,000 people who were evacuated found themselves in seemingly sturdy concrete buildings that could not protect them when the storm surge — sea water pushed by the typhoon — rushed in. "Everybody knew a big storm was coming. But I had no idea it was going to be this hell. ... Nobody imagined what was about to happen."
The water rose so high that some residents punched holes in their roofs with their bare hands to escape. "The water kept rising, and we eventually climbed up into the attic and stayed there for a day and a half."
Some families had taken refuge in a church, but they fled as water rushed in. As they ran through nearby woods, one was decapitated by a piece of metal that whizzed through the air. Young and elderly relatives who could not swim were trapped by the rising water, but one man rescued many of them. Then ee, too, was killed by debris: The storm blew several nails and a shard of metal into his neck.
Bulldozers have cleared debris from most main streets, but the sidewalks are filled with everything imaginable: broken speakers, typewriters, cables, artificial Christmas trees. There have been no major food distributions. The city's main hospital has been gutted. Medicines are running out. Police can be seen chasing scavengers through the streets. International humanitarian organizations have yet to arrive. With no tents, people are sleeping in destroyed homes. One family took shelter in the shade of a giant uprooted tree, and cooked under a ripped gray rooftop held down with a broken basketball pole.
And some people are even farther away from help. On Tuesday, military helicopters flew 15 minutes from Tacloban to the wasteland of a town called Tanawan, past a lake with bodies still floating in it and over bridges that had collapsed. Amid the ruins, desperate residents frantically waved their arms. Many had scrawled desperate messages in the ruins: "HELP! FOOD. WATER." Some messages appeared to be in chalk. One cry for help was spelled out in white clothing.
Today, American and Filipino C-130 cargo aircraft roar constantly at the Tacloban airport. Each plane can only take out around 150 people, and every flight is a disappointment to hundreds of residents left behind on the tarmac. Their destroyed city lay behind them, an apocalyptic graveyard marked with disfigured trees and ruin.


Indonesia - Drought damages rice crops. This year's drought has taken a toll on rice crops as hundreds of hectares of paddy fields in 13 districts in Cirebon regency, West Java, have been damaged.

Australia - Drought makes sorghum planting a struggle. Continued dry conditions in cropping areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales have prevented farmers getting sorghum crops planted.

Experts fear drought is hurting monarch butterfly migration - Fewer monarch butterflies could be flying through Texas while migrating to Mexico due to the lingering drought and lack of food along their migration path.

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