Friday, December 6, 2013

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

**Each problem that I solved became a rule
which served afterwards to solve other problems.**
Rene Descartes

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 12/5/13 -

+ The 2011 Japan Tsunami Was Caused By Largest Fault Slip Ever Recorded - Clay lubricated the fault zone in the Japan trench, producing the devastating tsunami, researchers say.
Two years ago, the sea off the coast of Japan reared up and swept away tens of thousands of lives in a devastating natural disaster. The 2011 earthquake has been the subject of intense study ever since, and the trench that produced it is the best studied in the world. Now, three papers recently published reveal the magnitude 9 earthquake off the east coast of Japan still has the capacity to surprise.
Experts calculate the fault - the boundary between two tectonic plates - in the Japan trench slipped by as much as 164 feet (50 meters). Other similarly large magnitude earthquakes, including the 9.1 Sumatra event in 2004, resulted in a 66-to-82 foot (20-to-25 meter) slip in the fault. "We've never seen 50-meter [slips]." The next largest slip would probably be the Chile earthquake in 1960. Based on the limited data recorded from that earthquake, the fault slipped by 98 to 131 feet (30 to 40 meters).
Most of the movement occurred horizontally. But because the plates are wedged together at this trench, that horizontal displacement still managed to thrust up enough seawater to produce the killer tsunami that hit Japan. Lubrication, specifically involving clay, is the key to such massive movement. The two tectonic plates involved are the Pacific plate, on which the Pacific Ocean resides, anda portion of the North American plate, on which parts of Japan sit.
A thick layer of clay sits atop the Pacific plate, which is getting dragged under a portion of the North American plate. As the Pacific plate dives into a trench off the coast of Japan, small portions of the clay get smeared along the plate boundary. That clay traps water, rendering it quite slippery. "We think that's responsible for allowing the incredibly large slip we observed near the trench." Normally, when two plates collide, there is friction. You can think of friction like a brake. "But clay almost removes any braking properties."
The Japan Trench Fast Drilling project enabled researchers to get out to the fault zone about a year after the earthquake and drop instruments down to measure temperature anomalies - the sudden slips during an earthquake can generate vast amounts of heat - and to bring up samples of the fault zone itself for analysis. Experts were able to take core samples of sediment and rock from the trench thanks to a sophisticated drilling ship. "[This] was right at the edge of what engineering could do."
Not only did they find evidence of this thin layer of lubricating clay, but experts were also able calculate how much heat and friction was involved. Even though the earthquake produced a 1,100° to 2,200°F (600° to 1,200°C) temperature increase, the amount of friction that had to be overcome to produce the fault slip wasn't as large as researchers expected. This helped confirm the fact that something else was going on - namely the clay lubrication.
It's difficult to say whether something like this could happen elsewhere, because no other submarine trench has as many instruments monitoring it. "Nowhere else do we have such a massive monitoring system."

Arizona - 11/25 & 11/26/13 - Residents hear, feel earthquake-type booms. Residents around Chino Valley reported hearing one or two loud booms and feeling their homes or business buildings shake on the mornings of Nov. 25-26. The Arizona Earthquake Information Network Director said the network's sensors didn't detect any earthquakes here, so if they occurred they probably were smaller than a magnitude of 2.5. And it would be hard for people to feel one smaller than a 2.0 magnitude.
Chino Valley police and fire officials, and the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office all received calls, but none of the three agencies reported any damage or injuries to residents. The U.S. Geological Survey website, which lists earthquakes recorded around the world, reported none for this area, either. However, by the afternoon of Nov. 26, 17 Chino Valley residents responded on the website that they had felt something that they thought was an earthquake. The Drake Cement plant north of Paulden said they had not done any blasting either of the two days, and a spokesperson said that employees working in the plant office yards away "hardly hear" noise from their blasts, and generally see only a puff of dirt. People who heard the boom on Nov. 25 said it sounded like something fell on the roof of the building they were in or like a sonic boom. More people responded Nov. 26 to hearing a boom or booms, windows rattling and then feeling the floor move.
One resident heard the Nov. 26 boom at about 8:35 a.m. and felt the floor of his office move. "I was sitting here at the office and all of a sudden, the floor moved up and down under my feet." He immediately called his wife at home three miles away, and she also heard the loud bang, but initially thought their dogs knocked over something inside the house. She also said the dogs began barking.
One rsident said she first noticed a change in her cats' behavior before the Nov. 26 booms hit while she was getting ready for work about 8:40 a.m. "They were acting really goofy, running all around and then hid under my bed." Also, her windows began to shake prior hearing the two booms. She then heard the booms and her tile floor moved back and forth under her bare feet. For12 years of her childhood, she lived in Highland, Calif., only a mile from the San Andreas fault, and felt many earthquakes. She described the movement of those shakes as a rolling motion, like standing on pipes. The movement here was different, she said. "This one shook back and forth. It shook me up." She has a theory that the long-period comet currently reported near the Earth, which she's learned is causing different kinds of disturbances around the world, could be the cause of the booms and shaking here.

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."

Washington - 11/26 through 11/28/13 - What are they? Rumblings, 'booms' heard anew on parts of the Peninsula. Residents between Port Angeles and Sequim reported hearing low, sustained rumblings and in some instances loud booms from Tuesday to Thursday last week. At least 15 people posted comments to the Peninsula Daily News’ Facebook page describing the sounds, which some say have been heard up and down the Strait of Juan de Fuca for months, if not longer.
“Yeah, it’s kind of strange. Everybody around here hears it. It rattles windows.” They never see any ships in the Strait nor planes overhead accompanying the rumbling sounds, which one described as being heard “just about every day” last week. “If you’ve never heard it before, it almost sounds like a big ship maybe reversing propeller.”
Others living in the Graysmarsh area of Sequim and up on Black Diamond Road also reported the rumblings Tuesday and Wednesday night. “It’s just another peculiarity of the North Olympic Peninsula." A Diamond Point resident said that people in that area hear “this all the time.”
the public affairs officer at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island said Navy jets were practicing all last week, except on Thanksgiving, and for most of November at the station’s Ault Field, just north of Oak Harbor and about 60 miles east of Port Angeles. “I can’t say definitely that that’s what they heard. All I can do is confirm that we’ve been having operations.”
EA0-6B Prowlers and EA-18G Growlers pilots practicing day and night for aircraft carrier landings at the air station might sound like rumbling, though no aircraft flying to and from the station would produce booms. “We aren’t doing anything you could really characterize as a loud boom. That’s not characteristic of normal aircraft operations.” Questions from the PDN about rumblings in the area came not too long after similar inquiries from a news website on Orcas Island. “I can tell you that over [on] Orcas Island, they were hearing rumbling in the distance, and we were doing operations at that time.”
The public affairs officer for Canada’s Maritime Forces Pacific based at the Canadian Forces Base in Esquimalt, B.C., said no Canadian naval ships were practicing firing on any of the base’s test ranges. Once such range is in the Strait of Juan de Fuca area. “The ranges were not active this week at all." The sounds he’s heard have not been booms and have not sounded like aircraft. “It doesn’t sound like jet aircraft to me. I’ve heard a lot of jet aircraft, and that’s not the way I would describe it.”
Last week was just one in a long list of multiple reports of mysterious booms or rumblings in the central part of the Peninsula. Rumblings earlier in August were thought to be Navy jets at Whidbey Island, while booms heard along the Dungeness River in April 2012 were attributed to a propane cannon set up to protect newly planted fields from birds. “We have not pulled [the cannon] out to use [on] Thanksgiving or anytime recently. No, it wasn’t us.”
A series of booms around Port Angeles in 1982 was blamed on naval exercises in the Strait. Unexplained booms were reported in Port Angeles in 2006 and 2007. Booms were heard in Dungeness, with houses shaken and a report of at least one broken window. In 2009, Port Angeles was again shaken by unexplained booms. In 2011, reported booms were determined to have been thunder.

Canada - 11/26/13 - People on Montreal's West Island and in the Vaudreuil region reported a loud boom followed by a vibration at about 8 p.m. Tuesday. A strange bang and flash of light sighted near Montreal on Tuesday night may have been a meteor. Hundreds of people took to Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday around 8 p.m. (ET) to report the sight. And though researchers have yet to confirm it – either through sonic radar or surveillance video – they say that it was most likely a meteor.
Reports have come from throughout the Ottawa region, through Montreal, Laval, and as far south as upper New York state, near the city of Plattsburgh. There have been no reports of damage. And, although a meteorite strike can often be detected by seismographs, Earthquake Canada said it had not registered any such event. The United States Geological Survey also said it had no recent reports of any quakes in the region.
At this point, researchers are hoping to gather video or photos of the event in hopes of figuring out where possible meteorite fragments may have landed. “The fact that there was a large sonic boom indicates that it was larger than average. Most meteors we see at night are the size of a grain of sand. This was much larger – anything between the size of a La-Z Boy chair to the size of a car. The question now is, what happened to it?”

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.

Pennsylvania - 11/30/13 - Residents report hearing "boom" in Wellsville, other counties. York County residents reported hearing a loud "boom" on Saturday that may have been York County's latest earthquake. "A lot of reports have come out of the Wellsville area." The reports ranged from Lower Allen Township in Cumberland County to Biglerville in Adams County. Although that's a sizeable area, the seismograph at Millersville University -- the closest one to the area -- did not register anything.
The explosion happened around 9:20 p.m. They checked in with Fort Indiantown Gap to see if they had been firing any heavy artillery at that time, and found out they had not. The shifting rock under the affected area might be diabase, the type of igneous rock that runs under the very seismically active Dillsburg area. "Diabase is so dense, when it shifts, everybody knows about it. Diabase, "literally explodes from pressure."
As for what caused it, the earthquakes in recent years might be tied to heavy rainfall. York County received 9.11 inches of rain in two days last month. "That's a theory."

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.

Connecticut - 11/29/13 - Mysterious "Booms" Heard in Southeastern Connecticut. Police in several southeastern Connecticut towns were flooded with calls. Stonington police said they received several calls from people across the town who reported hearing at least four loud "booms".
The mysterious booms turned out to be an earthquakes. Two organizations that track seismic activity have confirmed that the region experienced an earthquake on Friday, answering questions raised about the mysterious booms heard by residents from Montville to Mystic. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a 2.1 magnitude earthquake at 9:05 a.m. Friday that was centered about 2 miles east of Conning Towers-Nautilus Park. The Weston Observator reported two earthquakes, one at 9:05 a.m. and another at 9:42 a.m..
The quakes were recorded somewhere in the area of the Thames River, close to Ledyard. The noises produced by the earthquakes led to numerous calls to local police and fire departments, which searched the area looking for signs of an explosion. Residents were reporting that their houses shook from the booms. There were three “just incredible, boom, like explosions,” in thirty minutes.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

No current tropical storms.


+ Windstorm "Xaver" has killed one person in Scotland - For the first time since 2007, the massive flood gates that protect the Netherlands from the North Sea have been closed, as a mighty North Sea storm hurls a huge storm surge propelled by near-hurricane force winds against the coast of the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.
Windstorm "Xaver" has already killed one person in Scotland, where a truck driver was killed and four people were injured in an accident west of Edinburgh when high winds toppled a vehicle onto several cars. Winds gusted up to 142 mph overnight in the Scottish Highlands; many roads and bridges were closed, and all train services in Scotland were suspended; "there's too much debris and too much damage to equipment to continue."
Heavy wind damage likely - A squall line with severe thunderstorms has developed along a cold front that is sweeping across Northern Europe Thursday afternoon, and these thunderstorms are bringing intense lightning, heavy rains, and damaging winds. The European Storm Forecast Experiment is warning of the risk of tornadoes with this squall line, and damaging wind gusts of up to 90 mph (145 kph) in the severe thunderstorms.
3.5-meter storm surge predicted for Germany - The maximum storm tide of Xaver will be in Germany and Denmark, and will be unusually high, since we are only two days past the new moon. Fortunately, the German coast is well protected by dikes, which are about 8 meters high, and these dikes should be able to withstand Xaver's storm surge. The German weather service storm surge forecast made Thursday morning called for a storm tide of 3.5 meters (11.5') above average high tide in Cuxhaven and Bremerhaven during the high tide cycle early Friday morning. This is about 4.8 meters above mean sea level in Bremerhaven, which will be very close to the all-time record of 5.18 m above mean sea level set there in January 1976. (map at link)

+ European storm and tidal surge cause evacuations and travel chaos. A major storm has hit northern Europe, leaving at least four people dead or missing, causing transport chaos and threatening the biggest tidal surge in decades. Dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed in the Netherlands, Germany and Scotland, while rail services were shut down in several countries.
One of Europe's longest bridges - connecting Sweden to Denmark - closed. Tens of thousands of homes were also left without power as the storm hit. Winds of up to 228 km/h (142 mph) battered Scotland, where a lorry driver was killed when his vehicle was blown over near Edinburgh. At least two other people were injured by falling trees.
Two sailors were reportedly swept overboard from a ship 22 km (14 miles) off the southern Swedish coast, and air-sea rescue services failed to find them. A storm surge was due later on Thursday, coinciding with high tides in many areas. Britain's Environment Agency said tidal surges could bring significant coastal flooding, and the Thames Barrier was being closed to protect London. British authorities said they had evacuated homes in Great Yarmouth, eastern England, adding that it could be the biggest storm surge for 60 years.
In the low-lying Netherlands, the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier has been closed off for the first time in six years. Dutch authorities said they had issued the highest possible flood warning for four areas in the north and north-west of the country. There are heavy winds in the Netherlands.
Germany reinforced emergency services in and around the northern port of Hamburg and cancelled lessons at several schools.The storm was causing transport chaos throughout northern Europe. (videos at link)

+ Thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes as the severe storm batters large parts of the UK. England's east coast is experiencing the WORST TIDAL SURGE IN 60 YEARS, while in north Wales residents had to be rescued by lifeboat crews. A lorry driver died after his vehicle was blown onto two cars in West Lothian, while another man was killed by a falling tree in Nottinghamshire.
The Environment Agency has more than 60 severe flood warnings in place. In addition to severe flood warnings - meaning there could be a danger to life - the agency has 120 flood warnings in England and Wales. An agency spokesman said that in the "worst-case scenario" 6,000 properties could be flooded.
The North Sea tidal surge is the worst since January 1953, although flood defences built since then mean many parts of the country are now better protected. The armed forces were on standby to help if necessary. Essex Fire and Rescue Service said 10 rescue boats had been sent to Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, where the sea wall was breached in Hillman Avenue just before midnight. Firefighters were evacuating 2,500 homes.
In Lincolnshire, emergency planners said up to 18,000 homes in the Boston area could be affected by flooding. Water breached the town's sea defences, leading to the closure of several streets and the evacuation of vulnerable people. In Great Yarmouth, on the Norfolk coast, police are visiting 9,000 properties to advise people to leave their homes ahead of a storm surge expected at high tide, at 22:45 GMT.
Respite centres have been opened in high schools, and ill and elderly people have been asked to call the council for help. In addition, 20,000 sandbags have been distributed. There are fears north Wales could be hit by further flooding. More than 1,000 sand bags have been handed out in Aldeburgh, Suffolk in preparation for the tidal surge. A minibus is collecting people in vulnerable areas and taking them to a rest centre.
The three factors that have synchronised through today, giving rise to the predicted storm surge around the eastern coasts of Britain, are low pressure, high tides and strong winds. Air exerts a pressure on everything. A low-pressure system over the sea means that less pressure is being exerted on the water's surface. With less pressure pushing down on the sea, this allows a "bulge" of water to develop.
A period of spring tides are currently affecting the UK , meaning that the astronomical tides are higher than they normally would be. The occurrence of spring tides is driven by standard lunar cycles. The strong winds, coming from the north, have generated large waves in the North Sea. The final piece in the jigsaw has been the three factors combining almost in phase.
Homes and businesses are at risk in Suffolk and Norfolk, and in Lincolnshire thousands of people from coastal areas are being evacuated to Scunthorpe. Residents in Kent are also being warned of the danger of flooding. In Seasalter 70 properties have been evacuated as well as 200 in Faversham ahead of expected flooding in the early hours of Friday. The British Red Cross urged people in high-risk areas to be prepared.
The Met Office said there had been severe gales of between 60mph and 80mph across Scotland and northern parts of England, with some mountainous regions in Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire recording speeds of around 140mph. Conditions across the UK are expected to have improved by the weekend. (More info, map & photos at link)
+ 15 Storm photos


Canada - Record-breaking cold weather may be on its way out. It took its time coming but when it did, wow! Wednesday was cold, very cold indeed. Vancouver dipped to 19 degrees, BREAKING THE RECORD of 21 degrees.

U. S. - It's a winter mess from the southwest to the northeast. Ice is a four letter word today. Just ask folks living anywhere from Texas to Tennessee. Those areas are in the bulls eye of a treacherous ice storm, threatening to coat everything in its path with up to an inch of frozen water. Ice is slippery, but also heavy. It tends to bring down tree limbs and power lines when accumulations get thick. The ice also makes travel messy, real messy.
The governors of Tennessee and Arkansas declared states of emergency ahead of the worst of the storm. "The most unsettling aspect about Arkansas' weather for most of us is its looming uncertainty. During severe weather season, we know when conditions are ripe for tornadoes, but never exactly where and when they could strike. In winter, that uncertainty takes a different form but can still create widespread anxiety. Often, only a few degrees above or below the freezing mark can make the difference between a cold rain, a blanket of snow, an ice storm or a mixture of all of the above."
In the Dallas-Forth World area, roads were passable overnight, but it was a fine line as temperatures slipped below freezing. The slushy mess slowly turned to crunchy, bumpy ice. The National Weather Service predicts a wintry mix of precipitation through Sunday. Schools in various cities have canceled classes for Friday, including in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Little Rock, Arkansas and Dallas.
In addition to the ice, a much larger winter storm fueled by a massive Arctic air blast is bringing snow and sleet to a much wider area, from New Mexico to New York. And the Upper Midwest is locked in the deep freeze with temperatures in some areas well below zero and wind chills even colder.

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