Thursday, November 28, 2013

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

There will be no update on Friday this week.
**Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say,
abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.**
George Eliot

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 11/27/13 -

New Zealand Earthquakes Weakened Earth's Crust - A series of deadly earthquakes that shook New Zealand in 2010 and 2011 may have weakened a portion of Earth's crust, researchers say.
DCI New Zealand lies along the dangerous Ring of Fire — a narrow zone around the Pacific Ocean where about 90 percent of all the world's earthquakes, and 80 percent of the largest ones, strike. A devastating magnitude- 6.3 quake struck New Zealand's South Island in 2011. Centered very close to Christchurch, the country's second-largest city, it killed 185 people and damaged or destroyed 100,000 buildings. The earthquake was the costliest disaster to ever strike New Zealand, consuming about one-sixth of the country's gross domestic product.
This lethal earthquake was the aftershock of a magnitude-7.1 temblor that struck 172 days earlier (in 2010) in the area, causing millions of dollars in damage to bridges and buildings, and seriously injuring two people. Although the 2010 temblor was stronger than its aftershock, it caused less damage because it occurred farther away from any city. The 2011 earthquake was, in turn, followed by a number of large aftershocks of its own.
Scientists found that most of the earthquakes that struck New Zealand during these two years released ABNORMALLY HIGH LEVELS OF ENERGY, consistent with those seen from ruptures of very strong faults in the Earth's crust. The scientists analyzed seismic waves detected before and after the quakes. Based on this data, including seismic waves from more than 11,500 aftershocks of the 2010 quake, they mapped the 3D structure of the rock under the Canterbury Plains, similar to the way ultrasound data can provide an image of a fetus in a womb. (photos)
Canterbury earthquakes were HIGHLY UNUSUAL - The Canterbury earthquakes were even more unusual than first thought and unlikely to occur anywhere else in the world, new research reveals.
Research showed the UNUSUAL ROCK STRUCTURE of the region meant the Canterbury earthquakes produced some of the strongest vertical ground accelerations EVER SEEN in an earthquake. The makeup of this unique dense and thick slab of rock could have implications for other regions around the lower South Island. ''There will be few other places in the world where a similar earthquake sequence might occur."
The research showed that the strong quakes in Canterbury also could cause widespread cracking and weakening of the earth's crust - challenging the common assumption that the strength of the crust was constant. Normally rocks become hot and ''plastic'' at depths of about 10km. However, the researchers found that strong, brittle rocks continued to a depth of about 30km under Canterbury. ''Strong rocks store and release strain differently to weak rocks."
This UNUSUALLY thick and dense slab of rock helps to explain the long and energetic aftershock sequence in Canterbury. Seismic energy would have dissipated more quickly in softer rock.The researchers were now focussed on determining how widespread this strong rock unit is in the lower half of the South Island. "This is important for defining the earthquake hazard for people living between mid-Canterbury and Southland."
Researchers found that rock properties had changed significantly over a wide area around the Greendale Fault, which ruptured on 4 September 2010 producing a magnitude 7.1 quake. "This finding was entirely unexpected, but it explains why the main shock released so much energy." Most of the quakes in the two-year-long Canterbury sequence released ABNORMALLY HIGH LEVELS OF ENERGY - this was consistent with the ruptures occurring on very strong faults that store energy slowly and gradually and are hard to break. The Canterbury quakes had their genesis 100 million years ago when very strong rocks became emplaced under Canterbury.
The delay between the September 2010 and Feburary 2011 quakes also may have been caused by a ''strength recovery'' required for the crust following the cracking following the September quake.

South Carolina - 11/25/13 - Reports of mysterious “booms” light up Twitter on Monday evening. Twitter came alive with reports of loud booms off of James Island. It happens at least once a year: Residents along the coast report hearing and feeling booms that rattle their windows and shake their walls. The media investigates, calling local seismologists and the Air Force asking if they might know the source of the explosion and – nothing. Everyone shrugs their shoulders and mutters “Seneca Guns”, an unexplained phenomenon that dates back more than 100 years.

Arizona - 11/26/13 - Mysterious booms rock Verde Valley. More mysterious 'booms' reported in Verde Valley area. Last year, about this same time, residents in Verde Valley heard some mysterious, unexplained booms.
"It was a whole series of booms. Up to six or seven. It was fast, it went loud. We were quiet and then my daughter down the hall screams really loud, ‘Did you hear that?' I sat there for a second and I heard another set." Residents in communities in and around Verde Valley and as far as Flagstaff called 911 or their police and fire departments to report the strange booming sounds. "It sounded like thunder, but underground. Like muffled thunder. And all the dogs in the neighborhood, all of them that were outside all started barking at once."
CBS News first received reports of the explosion-like noises shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday and began checking with law enforcement and government sources. The U.S. Geological Survey reports no significant earthquake activity in Arizona that could have created the booms. The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office had deputies in the area who either heard it or tried to respond to resident calls. They found nothing.
Last year around this same time, similar mysterious booms were heard by other residents in the Verde Valley. There is some military activity that takes place with the U.S. Air Force flying planes over the area. "It is kind of strange that it would be re-occurring and, in that case, maybe it indicates some sort of man-made source. Who knows?"
The Sedona Fire District dispatched a crew to check a report of a strange odor, but that was unfounded and may not be related to the sounds. The Camp Verde Marshal also received a number of phone calls about the booms. Officers found no evidence of any explosions. But the Verde Valley contains large expanses of uninhabited land. "Maybe when the light comes back they'll find something." "It was just, ‘boom-boom-boom-boom-boom all over the Verde Valley."
Reports of similar booms are once again being called in to the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office. This time, primarily from the town of Chino Valley. "The way to describe it is like a hammer being slammed down next to the house. It was two hard hits and the house jumped, if felt like a jump, and I could hear the windows rattle a little bit, some glasses rattled." The first mysterious sound happened Monday around 10:20 a.m. and the second one at 8:40 a.m. Tuesday. It was a vertical jolt and after having lived through plenty of earthquakes while a resident in Southern California, a resident was sure it wasn't one. No earthquakes were reported in Arizona by the U.S. Geologic Survey on Tuesday.
The Verde Valley area had the same type of mysterious sounds about this time last year near Sedona. Last year, the calls went to the sheriff's office and the fire department. The Yavapai county Sheriff's Office on Tuesday said it checked out the reports. "Deputies conducted searches on both sides of Mingus Mountain, Prescott and Verde basins, and the source of the booms is classified unfounded."

Pennsylvania - 11/23/13 - Police say source of booms still unexplained. Police are puzzled by reports of booms heard throughout Philadelphia last week. Reports came in last week from some residents of the Woodland Hills neighborhood about hearing booms late at night. "We got a call on Saturday about booms around Azalea Drive and Chaney Avenue. Our officers went out there but couldn't find anything." The sounds might have originated in the country but were picked up by city residents.
Earlier this year it was discovered that a similar boom was caused by an explosive target used to blow up a beaver dam in the Williamsville community. The targets, which are often available for purchase at pawn shops and gun shows, explode when hit by a high-powered rifle round.

Small explosion rocks restless Alaska volcano - Mt. Cleveland, an active volcano in the Aleutian Islands underwent a brief, small explosion Tuesday. The AVO currently lists Cleveland at a yellow alert level; it has been at that level since being downgraded from orange following its eruption in May.


Ocean rip currents deadlier than bushfires in Australia. They might not make headlines like bushfires, floods, cyclones and sharks, but a study shows rip currents kill more people in Australia than all those threats combined.
There were an average 21 confirmed deaths involving rips per year between 2004 and 2011. The average yearly death toll from bushfires, floods, cyclones and shark attacks paled in comparison, with 5.9, 4.3, 7.5 and one respectively. "Rips account for greater overall loss of human life than other high profile natural hazards. Yet they do not get anywhere near as much attention and dedicated funding."
Events like bushfires have the capacity to claim many lives in a single disaster. "On the other hand, rip currents are almost always present and rarely result in more than one death at a time. But in the end, more people die as a result of them."

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the North Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone Lehar is located approximately 215 nm east-northeast of Chennai, India.
Lehar weakens to a tropical storm - threat to India lessens. Cyclone Lehar has met up with dry air and strong upper level winds that have torn into the storm, reducing it to a tropical storm with 65 mph winds at it heads west-northwest at 17 mph towards India's Bay of Bengal coast. Satellite images show that Lehar is much less organized than before, with a much diminished area of heavy thunderstorms. Cooler waters near shore and continued dry air and wind shear as the storm nears landfall will keep Lehar below hurricane strength until landfall. Landfall is expected to occur between 06 - 12 UTC today, November 28, in the Andhra Pradesh state of India.
UPDATE - The very severe cyclonic storm Lehar weakened to a cyclonic storm Wednesday, as wind speed fell to 90 kmph from 180 kmph, hours before landfall expected on Thursday. It changed direction and may now make landfall as a cyclonic storm between Machilipatnam and Nellore.
“It will cross the coast as a cyclonic storm, similar to the pattern of Helen and, within the next 12 hours, it will further weaken into a deep depression. Many areas across Telangana, including the city, may get heavy rainfall on November 28 and 29 under the influence of Lehar as it is moving west-north-west.”
The declining trend started as the wind field of the system weakened though it was moving steadily. The Cyclone Warning Centre in Visakhapatnam forecast that the cyclonic storm may strike the coast as a tropical storm and the point of landfall will be near Perupalem beach in West Godavari district.
Lehar is currently located over the Bay of Bengal at about 450 km east-southeast of Machilipatnam and 400 km south-east of Kakinada. It is moving at a very slow pace of 15 kmph. It will move west-north-westwards and will weaken gradually crossing the AP coast near Machilipatnam as a cyclonic storm on November 28 afternoon. According to the Meteorological department, four coastal districts of Krishna, Guntur, East and West Godavari, are likely to be heavily impacted by the storm. Visakhapatnam, Prakasam, Nellore, Vizainagaram and Srikakulam will be less affected.
“Lehar is very unpredictable. It is coming under the influence of the Northeast monsoon and is losing its strength. It is approaching the coast, but the impact is thankfully less than predicted." Very rough sea conditions, with very high waves on November 28 accompanied by a storm surge of 1.0 metres above astronomical tide will inundate low-lying areas of West and East Godavari, Guntur and Krishna districts of AP and Yanam district of Puducherry.
Fishing operations have been suspended and coastal hutment dwellers have been moved to a safer place. Squally wind speeds reaching 70-80 kmph, gusting to 90 kmph, will commence along and off coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, and could cause extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts, agricultural crops, and communication systems. Coastal areas have been getting heavy rains from Wednesday evening, and the intensity is expected to increase today, (photo, plus 16 photos of Cyclone Helen damage from last Friday.)


Winter storm Boreas - Tornado in North carolina. Heavy snow piled up Wednesday in parts of the Northeast and Appalachians while rain drenched locations closer to the coast as a winter storm disrupted millions of travelers heading out for Thanksgiving.
Nationwide, nearly 475 flights had been canceled and more than 3,600 had been delayed as of late afternoon. Some of the worst delays were at Philadelphia and the three New York City area airports. Although the storm will be long gone by Thursday morning, howling winds in its wake could spell trouble for some of the big balloons at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.
Snow fell in the Appalachians and portions of the interior Northeast. A heavy snowstorm forecast for Pittsburgh -- and dubbed the "Gobblegeddon" -- failed to develop as snow turned to rain in the city, but did strike northern counties, bringing more than 9 inches to Mercer County. Snow was reported falling as far south as Atlanta. The city picked up 0.4 inch of snow, which was only the third time measurable snow fell there in November since 1930.
Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories remained in effect as of late afternoon Wednesday in the central and southern Appalachians, portions of northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania, upstate New York and northern Maine. More lake-effect snow was forecast to fly on Thursday around the Great Lakes.
Flood watches also remained in effect for drenched eastern portions of the Northeast. Earlier Wednesday, the weather service confirmed that an EF-2 tornado hit Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, injuring two people. This was the same storm that blitzed the Southwest earlier in the week, killing at least 12 people in traffic accidents. More than 43 million people were expected to travel over the long holiday weekend. (photos at link)

Canada's winter weather forecast - Country in for series of extreme 'wild swings, from freezing to mild. Canadians are being warned to expect wild swings in the weather this winter, giving each month of the season its own “distinct personality.”
The Weather Network is forecasting periods of intense storms that could leave Canadians thinking they’re heading for one of the nastiest winters in a while, followed by spells of relatively tranquil weather. “A lot of ups and downs - that’s the real headline for the next three months. We think that like how much of November has gone with these wild swings in temperature, from mild to cold to mild again, that we’ll keep that trend.”
The predicted twists and turns will stem from there being no El Niño or La Niña in the tropical Pacific to send “strong signals” and drive North American weather patterns. “This year we don’t have either. We have what we affectionately dub ‘La Nada’ - which is ‘the nothing'. That’s a big part of our reasoning why there’s going to be a lot of extremes and how each month of the winter may have a very distinct personality - because of a fight that’s going on between the milder air from the south and the classic cold arctic air from the north.”
The country is likely heading into a “highly variable and changeable winter.” The Atlantic region will be “fairly stormy” but is on track for fewer Nor’easters than usual, with temperatures and snowfall at or near normal levels. Ontario and Quebec will also see temperatures balance out at close to normal levels, but the next three months will be marked by a “see-saw” of Arctic air and more moderate temperatures, as have been seen in recent weeks.
While the Prairies have gotten a “quick start” to winter with recent storms, over the course of the season conditions will see temperatures in line with the norm, while conditions in the North will also skew close to normal. The “La Nada” weather pattern should leave much of British Columbia at or below its usual levels of precipitation. “As a result we don’t think there’ll be quite as many ‘Pineapple Expresses’ that come through. We’ll still get our share of rain but we may not see quite as much as we usually do.”


+ Wildebeest herd makes 'RARE' early return to Tanzania - Thousands of wildebeest have returned early from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park in a move park officials say is rare.The animals began migrating from Kenya to Tanzania in September and were not expected to return until April.
Park officials have "NEVER EXPERIENCED THIS BEFORE". Drought in Tanzania was the likely cause. A lack of pasture in Tanzania due to the drought was probably the reason why they had made the journey north so early. "They look very thin."
The UNUSUAL OCCURRENCE is likely to have a positive effect on tourism in Kenya, less so for Tanzania. The annual migration of more than one million wildebeest between the Seregenti National Park in Tanzania and Kenya's Masai Mara Game Reserve is a spectacle that draws tourists from around the world. The sight of wildebeest crossing the crocodile-infested Mara River has been described as the seventh wonder of the world.


Australian seas contain an invisible potential killer more deadly than any sharks, crocodiles, jellyfish or snakes. The first in-depth test of its kind in waters around Australia found widespread pollution with micro-plastics - plastic particles less than 5mm long which would go unnoticed by the casual observer.
The research concludes there are on average more than 4000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of water. And scientists warn there could be disastrous effects on the food chain - including humans - unless action is taken to cut the amount of plastic being flushed away. Many of the plastics found contain toxic chemicals which could work their way up the food chain to humans.
"There is increasing evidence that marine animals, ranging from plankton to whales, ingest large amounts of plastics loaded with pollutants, which may then be incorporated into the food chain. We need to decrease plastic waste and toxicity, regulate plastic disposal on land at an international level, and better enforce the laws prohibiting dumping plastics at sea."
The study did a dragnet at 57 locations around Australia, plus waters near Fiji. They found evidence of micro-plastics at 53 sites, a 93 per cent hit rate. The majority came from broken down polyethylene and polypropylene, which are used to make fishing gear and disposable packaging like water bottles and plastic cups. The sources of the pollution could be both domestic and international.
High concentrations were found close to Sydney and Brisbane, but also in remote areas where ocean currents converge, like south west of Tasmania and Western Australia's North West Shelf. The pollution level is lower than the world's worst-hit oceans - for now. The study says the so-called "Great Pacific Garbage Patch", between the United States and Japan, contains 334,271 pieces of plastic per square kilometre.


Salt in medicines 'poses a health risk' - Soluble painkillers used by millions of people could pose a health risk because they are high in salt, UK researchers are warning. Some formulations taken at maximum dose tip users over the recommended daily sodium intake for an adult, with potentially dangerous consequences. The study found a link between effervescent tablets and heart attacks and stroke.
Many effervescent medicines contain salt. This is because in order to fizz and dissolve, they contain a substance called bicarbonate, which is often combined with sodium. Compared with patients taking the same drugs without salt, those who regularly took effervescent or soluble medications increased their risk of having a heart attack, stroke or dying from a vascular cause by a fifth. They were also seven times more likely to develop high blood pressure or hypertension, which the researchers say is at the root of the problem.
"We know that high salt causes hypertension and that hypertension leads to stroke." The British Heart Foundation said it was important to remember that the research applied to people who were taking these medicines every day - it did not mean that occasional use could damage your heart health.
"It is extraordinary to think that sodium has been hiding in our medicines all this time. Without clear labelling on these products, it is impossible to know how much additional sodium you would be eating, so it is shocking to find you could be having more than your daily maximum from medicines alone. Eating too much sodium - in any form - puts up our blood pressure, which puts you at increased risk of strokes and heart attacks, the biggest killers in the world."


Critical time for Ison - 'comet of the century'. Astronomers are anxiously waiting to see if the comet survives its encounter with the Sun. Comet Ison will reach its closest approach to our star at approximately 18:35 GMT today.

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