Tuesday, November 26, 2013

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

**Everybody pities the weak;
jealousy you have to earn.**
Arnold Schwarzenegger

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 11/25/13 -

Indonesia's Mount Sinabung volcano erupts 6 more times - Powerful bursts of hot ash and gravel erupted from the rumbling volcano in western Indonesia early Monday, sending panicked villagers streaming down the sides of the mountain.
Six new eruptions in the morning sent lava and searing gas tumbling up to 1.5 kilometres down the slopes of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province. Volcanic material spewed as high as 2,000 metres into the air a day after authorities had raised the volcano's alert status to the highest level.
About 15,000 people have been evacuated from 17 villages in the danger zone five kilometres around the crater. The evacuation zone was expanded from three kilometres. Thick, gray ash covered villages, farms and trees as far as 70 kilometres north of Mount Sinabung's crater, hitting the towns of Binjai and Langkat.
"Everything turned hot surrounding us. We were running in panic under the rain of ash and gravel ... I heard many women and children screaming and crying." Fruit and vegetable farms were destroyed by the ash and schools were disrupted. The 2,600-metre Mount Sinabung has sporadically erupted since September. An eruption in 2010 killed two people and caught scientists off guard because the volcano had been quiet for four centuries.

Volcanic Eruption Sends Rocks Raining Down on Italy - Mt. Etna erupted twice in less than a week earlier this month. The first eruption took place on Nov. 16, the second on Nov. 23.
Lava flows were reportedly shot 700-800 meters in the air. Lightning was also present during the explosion, as well as plumes of gas, smoke and ash. The ash traveled across the region, coating Giardini Naxos on Sicily with black dust. It also pushed across the Strait of Messina and into the mainland. Chunks of ash and rock fell from the sky, as big as 2 centimeters in diameter.
Four air corridors that service Sicily's Catania Airport and a local highway were closed for a time as a result of the raining volcanic debris. "They must be spewed high into the sky and then carried by the winds. Those type of rocks are rather light and full of air." Some rocks and ash can also fall from the sky much like rain, as they are sent into the atmosphere and can collect on clouds to be rained down with later precipitation.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the North Indian Ocean -
Category 1 Tropical cyclone Lehar is located approximately 565 nm southeast of Visakhapatnam, India.

Dangerous Category 1 Cyclone Lehar is intensifying as it heads west-northwest at 8 mph towards India's Bay of Bengal coast. Lehar is expected to continue to intensify to a major Category 3 storm until just before landfall, which is expected to occur near 03 UTC Thursday, November 28 in the Andhra Pradesh state of India. This is the same portion of the coast that Cyclone Helen hit on Friday as a tropical storm with 40 mph winds.
Helen's heavy rains killed eleven people, caused widespread severe agricultural damage, and left the soils saturated, which will make the rains from Lehar doubly dangerous. Also of concern is the storm surge, which will impact a portion of the coast that is heavily populated and low-lying. The India Meteorological Agency is predicting that Lehar will generate a storm surge of up to 1.6 - 2.9 meters (5.2 - 9.5 feet) to the right of where the eye makes landfall.
In addition to Cyclone Helen, India's Bay of Bengal coast also was hit this year by Tropical Cyclone Phailin, a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds, which killed 44 people and did $1.1 billion in damage on October 12. It's UNUSUAL for India to get hit by so many named storms in one year.
During the past two centuries, 42 percent of Earth's tropical cyclone-associated deaths have occurred in Bangladesh, and 27 percent have occurred in India.
Andhra Pradesh Mass Evacuation Planned - India's east coast is braced for more severe storms as Tropical Cyclone Lehar looks set to reach Andhra Pradesh - just days after the area was battered by Cyclone Helen. Lehar will be stronger than Helen. While Helen had wind speeds of 100 kmph, Leher could see speeds of more than 150 kmph.

Cyclone “Helen” damaged ready-to-harvest rice crops in an estimated 460,000 hectares in India's southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Helen has caused widespread damage to paddy crops in the East and West Godavari districts and to coconut plantations in the Konaseema area.

Disease and hunger fears after Somalia cyclone - Two weeks ago a tropical cyclone struck the northeast coast of Somalia, killing more than 100 people and thousands of head of livestock. The storm struck the autonomous region of Puntland on November 8, after hitting the Philippines earlier.


Calm solar cycle prompts questions about impact on Earth - The surface of the sun has been surprisingly calm of late - with fewer sunspots than anytime in in the last century - prompting curious scientists to wonder just what it might mean here on Earth.
The sunspots appear in roughly 11-year cycles - increasing to a daily flurry and then subsiding drastically, before amping up again. But this cycle -- dubbed cycle 24 - has surprised scientists with its sluggishness. The number of spots counted since it kicked off in December 2008 is well below the average observed over the last 250 years. In fact, it's less than half.
"It is the weakest cycle the sun has been in for all the space age, for 50 years." The intense electromagnetic energy from sunspots has a significant impact on the sun's ultraviolet and X-ray emissions as well as on solar storms. Solar storms can interrupt telecommunications and electronic networks on Earth. Sunspot activity can also have an impact on the Earth's climate.
Cycle 23 hit its maximum in April 2000 with an average of 120 solar spots a day. The cycle then wound down, hitting bottom around December 2008, the point at which scientists marked the start of the current cycle. The minimal solar activity at the end of cycle 23 led astronomers to predict a slow cycle 24. But the reality fell even below expectations. In the first year of the cycle, during which solar activity should have risen, astronomers counted 266 days without a single sun spot.
"The forecast peak was 90 sunspots." Even though the activity has risen over the past year, "it's very clear it is not going to be close to 90. The sunspots number peaked last year at 67, almost half a typical cycle." The last time a sunspot cycle was this slow was in February 1906, the peak of cycle 14, with just 64 spots a day. The "very long minimum: three years, three times more than the previous three cycles of the space age" was a major surprise.
Cycle 24 has ALSO DIVERGED FROM THE NORM IN ANOTHER SURPRISING WAY. Typically, around the end of each 11-year sunspot cycle, the sun's magnetic fields switch direction. The northern and southern hemispheres change polarity, usually simultaneously. During the swap, the strength of the magnetic fields drops to near zero and reappears when the polarity is reversed, scientists explain.
But this time, SOMETHING DIFFERENT SEEMS TO BE HAPPENING. The north pole already reversed its polarity several months ago -- and so it's now the same polarity as the south pole. According to the most recent satellite measurements, "the south hemisphere should flip on the near future."
Scientists are watching the sun carefully to see whether cycle 24 is going to be an aberration -- or if this solar calmness is going to stretch through the next cycle as well. "We won't know that for another good three or four years." Some researchers speculate this could be the start of a prolonged period of weak solar activity.
The last time that happened, during the so-called "Maunder Minimum" between 1650 and 1715, almost no sunspots were observed. During the same period, temperatures dropped sharply on Earth, sparking what is called the "Little Ice Age" in Europe and North America.
As the sunspot numbers continue to stay low, it's possible the Earth's climate is being affected again. But thanks to global warming, we're unlikely to see another ice age. "Things have not started to cooling, they just have not risen as quickly."

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