Thursday, November 7, 2013

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

**In any contest between power and patience,
bet on patience.**
W.B. Prescott

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 11/6/13 -

New Zealand - Extreme weather could cause Port Hill land movement. More than 100 Port Hills homeowners in Christchurch have been told their quake-damaged properties could pose a risk to life in heavy rainfall or other extreme weather.

New Explosions Spotted at Russian Zhupanovksy Volcano - The remote Russian volcano may be readying for a new eruption. On Nov. 5, NASA's Earth-Observing 1 satellite spotted ash above the Zhupanovksy volcano, which recently woke from a decades-long slumber. The snowy peaks also shows signs of phreatic explosions - the stupendous blasts that result from hot lava meeting snow, ice or water.
Zhupanovksy's latest activity started on Oct. 23, when the volcano spewed ash 16,400 feet (5 kilometers) into the sky. It was the first explosive eruption at the volcano since 1959. The initial blast of ash and volcanic gases was followed by several days of phreatic bursts and strong gas emissions from fumaroles (gas vents) at the peak.

Kamchatkan Shiveluch Volcano spews ash 3 km high. The Shiveluch Volcano erupting in Kamchatka, Russia, has spewed ash three kilometers high, the Kamchatkan territorial emergency situations department reported on Wednesday. "The volcanic event occurred on Wednesday afternoon. The ash cloud stretched southeast, towards the Kamchatka Strait, bypassing populated areas."
No ashfall has been reported from towns nearby. This is the fourth ash discharge from Shiveluch since the beginning of this month. The previous events occurred on November 1-2. Those ash columns were up to six kilometers tall. Rescuers advised tour operators to avoid paths around the volcano, for which an orange alert has been issued.
Shiveluch is the northernmost active volcano of Kamchatka situated 45 kilometers away from the town of Klyuchi in the Ust-Kamchatsky district with a population of approximately 5,000. It is also one of the largest Kamchatkan volcanoes. Shiveluch became active in May 2009 and got a fissure that is almost 30 meters deep in its dome.

Indonesia - Mt Sinabung eruption disrupts food supply in Batam. Mount Sinabung has disrupted the supply of food commodities, in particular vegetables, from North Sumatra to Batam and several other areas in Riau Islands. Such a shortage of supply has led to a sharp increase in the price of food commodities, causing 0.16 percent inflationary pressure in October and 7.62 percent year-on-year inflation.
North Sumatra is a food producing area for Riau Islands. “We predict inflation will be higher in November because of food supply disruptions in food producing areas.” Brastagi, an agricultural area in Tanah Karo regency in North Sumatra, has supplied various food commodities, such as red chili and vegetables, to Riau Islands.
In the last several weeks, the price of red chili in Batam has sharply increased to Rp 40,000 (US$3.51) per kilogram from Rp 18,000. A sharp rise in the price of red chili has been one contributor to the province’s high inflationary pressures in October. Riau Islands has also seen a critical shortage of vegetables in traditional markets. Several vendors said they now depended on vegetable supplies from areas outside North Sumatra, such as Java and Jambi. Once the situation in the supplying areas return to normal, prices should return to normal.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the Western Pacific -
- Tropical storm Thirty was located 200 nm east-northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The final advisory has been issued on this system.

- Category 5 Super Typhoon Haiyan is located approximately 54 nm north of Koror, Palau. Haiyan is forecast to strike the Philippines as a typhoon at about 04:00 GMT on November 8.
Evacuations are underway in the Philippines Islands as extremely dangerous Category 5 Super Typhoon Haiyan heads towards the islands. Haiyan is referred to as "Yolanda" in the Philippines, and became a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds at 12 UTC (7 am EDT) Wednesday.
Haiyan is a spectacular typhoon with a tiny pinhole eye just 9 miles in diameter. With warm waters that extend to great depth, low wind shear, and excellent upper-level outflow, Haiyan will likely stay at Category 4 or 5 strength until landfall occurs between 03 - 06 UTC Friday in the central Philippine islands of Samar or Leyte. Haiyan became a Cat 5 at an UNUSUALLY LOW LATITUDE (7.9°N), but this is not a record. The most southerly Cat 5 on record was Super Typhoon Louise of 1964 (7.3°N), followed by 2012's Super Typhoon Bopha (7.4°N.)
Haiyan is the fourth Category 5 storm in the Western Pacific and fifth on Earth so far in 2013. This is the highest number of Cat 5s since 2009, which had four Cat 5s in the Western Pacific and one in the Eastern Pacific. Since 2000, Earth has averaged 4.4 of these mightiest of tropical cyclones per year. The record for Cat 5s in a year is twelve, set in 1997, when an astonishing ten Cat 5s occurred in the Western Pacific. The Atlantic has not had a Category 5 storm since Hurricane Felix of 2007, making the past six years the longest stretch without a Cat 5 since 1981 - 1987.

Tropical Depression 30 a heavy rainfall threat for Southeast Asia - Tropical Depression 30 was making landfall over southern Vietnam Wednesday, and will bring heavy rains of 8+ inches to portions of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand over the next few days. The storm is expected to dissipate over Southeast Asia by Thursday.

Philippines - Forced evacuation ordered in towns of Bohol, Romblon as Yolanda moves closer. Entire nation on alert as Yolanda barrels towards Friday landfall.
Local authorities evacuated coastal areas and put emergency workers on alert as the storm is expected to grow into a super typhoon headed towards the Visayas, which is still recovering from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit last month. Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) continued to move towards the Visayas area. Yolanda entered the Philippine area of responsibility at midnight Wednesday, and is expected to make landfall in Eastern Visayas on Friday.
Pagasa warns Bohol and Bicol of massive landslides, floods if ‘Yolanda’ hits. The 500-kilometer radius of Tropical Storm Yolanda, coupled with its expected heavy-to-torrential rainfall, may cause massive landslides in Bohol and the Bicol region, said a top official of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa). Yolanda will affect and cover half of the country’s territory within a 500-kilometer radius.
All typhoons that entered in the Philippine Area of Responsibility in the months of October and November usually hit the landmass, causing massive devastation in the country, specifically in the Bicol region. “There’s a big chance that Tropical Storm Yolanda will hit in the landmass on Friday, with a 500-kilometer radius and with heavy-to-torrential rainfall enough to trigger massive landslides in Bohol and the Bicol region.” The months of September until December are the most critical for Bicol, when all stronger typhoons make a landfall in the region.
“Historically, all typhoons that enter in the country in the months of October and November are very powerful. We’re expecting Yolanda will make landfall and is gaining more strength while developing on Caroline Islands. For 65 years, all tropical cyclones that developed or were formed in the equator near the Island of Chuuk landfall and hit Bicol region - so be prepare.”
Yolanda, with international name Haiyan, is rapidly intensifying as it moves quickly across the central part of Caroline Islands. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Bicol office resident volcanologist warned disaster responders to be on guard as volcanic debris might remobilized in low-lying areas with the big volume of precipitation, specifically in areas of Mabinit, Matanag and Pawa - all villages in Legazpi City - and barangays (villages) Maninila and Maipon in Guinobatan town.
In Albay province alone hundreds of thousands of families will be evacuated by the provincial government to attain the zero-casualty goal of the government. Yolanda is the 24th typhoon to hit the country, and they are expecting 10 more typhoons before the year ends.


Near hurricane-force winds projected for Western Alaska - As of mid-day Wednesday, the National Weather Service’s Alaska weather map showed severe weather conditions – with forecasts of still worse yet to come – throughout Western Alaska’s waters and coastal regions.
"The City of Nome advises citizens of impending storm and extreme weather conditions. " According to reports issued by the National Weather Service, Category-1-hurricane-force extremely strong, near-hurricane-force winds are moving towards the southern Seward Peninsula. Warnings have been issued with conditions worsening as of noon Wednesday. Residents of the region should expect high surf, possible coastal flooding, and associated beach erosion. Winds are expected to range from 35 mph to 45 mph with gusts up to 65 mph – and up to 70mph on St. Lawrence Island – with the strongest winds expected this afternoon through early Thursday morning. Travel should be limited with the expectation that road conditions could rapidly degrade and make emergency response difficult.


Japan - A task of extraordinary delicacy and danger is about to begin at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power station. Engineers are preparing to extract the first of more than 1,000 nuclear fuel rods from one of the wrecked reactor buildings. This is seen as an essential but risky step on the long road towards stabilising the site.
The fuel rods are currently in a precarious state in a storage pool in Unit 4. This building was badly damaged by an explosion in March 2011 following the Great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Moving the rods to safety is a high priority but has only become possible after months of repair work and planning. "It's going to be very difficult but it has to happen."
The fuel rods are four-metre long tubes containing pellets of uranium fuel and the fear is that some may have been damaged during the disaster. When the tsunami struck the Japanese coast, the flood swamped the diesel generators providing back up power to the reactors. Three of the reactors went into a state of partial meltdown.
By coincidence, Unit 4 was undergoing maintenance, so all of its fuel rods were being stored. But the meltdown of a neighbouring reactor led to a build-up of hydrogen which is believed to have led to the explosion in Unit 4. In the days after the tsunami, there were fears that the blast had damaged Unit 4's storage pool and, in desperation, the authorities used helicopters and fire hoses to keep it filled with water.
A guiding principle of nuclear safety is that the fuel is kept underwater at all times - contact with the air risks overheating and triggering a release that could spread contamination. So the operation to remove the rods will be painstaking.
The rods will be lifted out in batches of 22 and in casks filled with water. This will be done with a new crane, recently installed in the wrecked building, after the original one was destroyed. The task of removing each batch will take 7-10 days.
Two critically important issues are whether the rods themselves are damaged and therefore likely to leak and whether the casks remain watertight to ensure the rods have no contact with the air. The risks include a possible "release of radiation" from the fuel or if the casks holding the fuel are dropped. "Countermeasures" have been prepared - including back-up wires to hold the loads and mechanisms to hold the fuel in the event of a power failure.
The fuel rods will then be deposited into a new "common" pool with a cooling system. "The common pool is planned to be used over a long period, supposedly for 10 to 20 years, and will be reinforced against possible future earthquakes and tsunamis". The rods will be checked for signs of damage - large amounts of debris fell into the pool during the disaster so the risks are real. Checks for corrosion have found only minor signs so far - with "no corrosion affecting fuel integrity". But only when the operation begins will engineers get a detailed look at the rods and a chance to assess their state.
Unit 4 presents particular dangers because its entire stock of fuel rods was in the pool at the time of the accident. If the operation goes as planned, attention will then focus on the massive challenges posed by Units 1, 2 and 3. The latest investigations have shown that despite the meltdowns experienced by each reactor, their temperatures have now stabilised. In Units 1 and 2, readings show the presence of water in what's called the primary containment vessel - suggesting that the melted fuel rods have not penetrated that safety barrier.
The radiation level is too high in Unit 3 for that kind of examination to be carried out but using data from the reactor pressure vessel they assume that water is also present in the primary containment. Meanwhile, the site continues to be plagued by leaks of radioactive water flowing into the Pacific Ocean.
Tepco will not confirm the precise timing of the fuel rod operation but after so much public outrage at the company's handling of the crisis so far, scrutiny of this latest episode will be intense.

Previous Fukushima problems -
21 Oct: - Radioactive water overflows a containment barrier after heavy rain
7 Oct - A plant worker accidentally switches off power to pumps used for cooling damaged reactors
3 Oct - Tepco says there is a radioactive water leak after workers overfill a storage tank
21 Aug - Japan's nuclear agency upgrades Fukushima alert level
20 Aug - Tepco says 300 tonnes of radioactive water has leaked from a storage tank into the ground
July - Tepco for the first time admits radioactive water is going into the sea
June - Tepco says radioactive water leaking from a storage tank to the ground
April - Tepco suspects a fresh radioactive water leak at Fukushima
March - Tepco suspects a rodent may have been behind a power cut that shut down cooling systems
Dec 2011 - Contaminated water leaks from a treatment system, caused by a crack in the foundation


Floods and Drought Curbing China Corn Harvest: Commodities - China's corn harvest is poised to decline for the first time in four years after flooding in its biggest-producing province and drought in its fifth largest-producing province cut yields.

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