Monday, December 2, 2013

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

No update on Tuesday this week.

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LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/1/13 -

Current tropical storms - maps and details.
No current tropical storms.

For 8th straight year, no hurricanes hit Florida - Several tropical storms have damaged Florida since 2005, including Debby, which unleashed record rainfall and flooding in North Florida in June 2012.

India - Another low pressure to bring rains. Another trough of low pressure has formed in the Bay of Bengal and is expected to turn into a low pressure system over the next 48 hours. Moderate to heavy rainfall is also predicted in Telangana, coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions due to the moisture brought in by the Cyclone Lehar.
On Saturday, the Indian Meteorological Department predicted that the trough of low pressure currently in the southeast Bay of Bengal would move westwards towards the Indian coast and form a low pressure system during the next 48 hours. However, chances of that low pressure further intensifying are very low as the sea surface temperature in the Bay of Bengal is dropping. The low pressure system is most likely to hit the Tamil Nadu coast.
“It could develop into a low pressure system over the next two days, but it will not develop into a cyclone. The sea surface temperature in the Bay of Bengal has dropped and this is not conducive to the formation of cyclones.” Sea surface temperature is an important factor for the development of cyclones. Studies have found that Bay of Bengal has a higher surface temperature (which is conducive to formation of cyclones) in comparison to the Arabian Sea.


Landslide kills 9 in Indonesia - Landslides triggered by torrential rain buried houses near a rumbling volcano in western Indonesia and searchers found nine bodies in the mud and water on Sunday. Four of the dead were children.
Several houses were buried when mud gushed down the surrounding hills late on Saturday into Gundaling village, about 12 kilometres east of Mount Sinabung volcano in North Sumatra province. The bodies of a mother and her 2-year-old son were retrieved from a mound of mud just before midnight on Saturday. Six victims were found early on Sunday, including two children, followed by the body of a 10-year-old boy drifting in a river.
Authorities struggled to get tractors and bulldozers over washed-out roads hours after the landslides. Hundreds of police, soldiers and residents were digging through the debris with their bare hands, shovels and hoes near a temporary shelter that houses hundreds of villagers who evacuated from the perimeter of the volcano. Mount Sinabung has sporadically erupted since September, and its alert status was raised to the highest level last week. Recent eruptions have been smaller, but villagers are waiting until it’s safer to return home.
Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, a vast chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or fertile flood plains. A strong, shallow earthquake rocked parts of eastern Indonesia early on Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The 6.3-magnitude quake was centered 343 kilometres northwest of Saumlaki, a coastal town in Maluku province, at a depth of 9 kilometres beneath the sea.


Massachusetts - Dozens injured, two seriously, in I-290 pileup in Worcester - 65 cars and 3 tractor-trailers. Public safety personnel had to climb over a mangled mess of metal as they responded to people in need of help. The massive crash was reported about 6:30 a.m. on the westbound side of the highway near Exit 14 (Grafton Street).
State police said that of the 35 to 40 people injured, only two had serious injuries. “I am extremely surprised that nobody was killed especially the vehicles that went under the trailer truck. We had to talk over the hoods of the cars, under the trailer trucks. The scene was impenetrable.”
Black ice began to cover the highway about 6:30 a.m., causing drivers to lose control while heading down the declining section of I-290 westbound. As a trooper exited her cruiser to assist a motorist involved in the first crash "she observed multiple vehicles sliding toward her out of control. She yelled to warn to those motorists to take cover.” The trooper dove into her cruiser as it was struck by a car. She has minor injuries.
The chain reaction of crashes then began as cars began to pile up in the roadway. Two tractor-trailers slid sideways at the front and rear of the accident scene. Two large commercial trucks were also struck. State police estimated 65 vehicles were involved. Some cars were wedged underneath the tractor-trailers with cars piled on top of them.
“When the crash ended is when enough cars had to back up over that rise for oncoming motorists to see that there was actually a collision.” The crash scene was 1,500 feet long. Poor roadway conditions were the culprit in the pileup. The road was closed for four-and-a-half hours. “I have never seen anything of this magnitude.”
“It is the Thanksgiving weekend so there's a lot of people that were going home that are now involved in a crash hundreds of miles from home. It was a very dangerous morning.” There were serious crashes in other parts of the state, such as Route 9 in Northboro. Twenty-five cars were involved in the Route 9 crash in Northboro, including the Northboro Fire Department ambulance, which was responding to the crash at the time. The crash happened shortly before 7 a.m. just east of the Route 20 interchange, and no life-threatening injuries were reported.
In the I-290 crash, one of the drivers involved noticed cars in the eastbound lanes flashing their lights at her as she drove west Sunday morning. Just as she started to wonder why, she rounded the curve where Interstates 290 and 190 meet and began a harrowing slide on the unseen ice. The westbound lanes slope downhill at the end of the curve, and her minivan was completely out of control and not slowing at all as the pile up came into view ahead. “As soon as we got to the top of the hill, 40 cars in front of us. Stopped. There was nothing I could do. We just slid down the hill.”
The minivan careened into a tractor-trailer at the back of the pile, and she called out to her children to stay buckled up and not to move. They were hit from behind by other out-of-control cars twice before the back of the pile had shifted further down the road from their position. She and her children in the back seat weren't hurt, but her 70-year-old mother suffered minor cuts and some swelling from the impact with the truck.
Worcester police officers were stationed at every I-290 westbound ramp in Worcester to keep people off the highway while the accident was being cleared. Crews from the state Department of Transportation were on the roads Sunday morning, but the ice developed fast. "It came up suddenly and quickly and the number of crews we had just wasn't enough." Some cars had minor damage, others were much worse.
Light drizzle landing on an already cold road coupled with below-freezing temperatures Sunday morning caused the icy conditions. “A lot of wet weather isn't needed when the ground is that cold. It doesn't take much to cause ice.” (photos & video at link)

Nearly two months after devastating blizzards hit parts of South Dakota and Wyoming, farmers are still recovering from the loss of cattle and the effect on their businesses. The week before the storm, it had been wet and mild and the prairies of the Great Plains were deep in mud. Then, the first winter snow came early and unexpectedly in an icy blast from the north-west. It was the WORST STORM IN 150 YEARS.
Trapped in the mud, 30,000 cattle suffocated and froze to death. They were buried in 20ft (6m) snow drifts, entombed in ice in the slopes and valleys of the rolling prairie hills. "I looked at my grandfather's records. It was the worst storm for 150 years. God entrusted us with the care of these animals and we failed them."
At Lone Tree Ranch, in Meade County, 3,000ft (910m) up in the undulating hills that stretch out over the prairie like giant sand dunes, nearly a hundred horses perished. In cash terms their losses will run to around $250,000 (£153,000). "It is not the money. These animals were our friends. It is heartbreaking." The ranch runs holidays for children from all over America and the business is now in jeopardy.
In the community of Box Elder, a rancher lost 200 Angus beef cattle but they did find one small calf buried in the snow and still alive 17 days after the storm. The situation has been made worse for South Dakota's ranchers, because the blizzard hit while politicians in Washington were doing their own wrangling over budgets in the US government shutdown. The farmers have no government aid package and no hope of help until Congress agrees on a new US Farm Bill - which is not expected any time soon.
But ranch folk help each other and in an inspiring act of charity, a young Christian rancher from Montana, has created Heifers For South Dakota - a sort of Cattle Aid for farmers who have lost livestock. Farmers from neighbouring states have donated 650 cattle to ranchers in need. "I thought if I got just one cow it would help someone. But they just keep coming."


Behaviour can be affected by events in previous generations which have been passed on through a form of genetic memory, animal studies suggest. Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behaviour of subsequent generations.
A study shows mice trained to avoid a smell passed their aversion on to their "grandchildren". Experts said the results were important for phobia and anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder research. The animals were trained to fear a smell similar to cherry blossom. The team then looked at what was happening inside the sperm. They showed a section of DNA responsible for sensitivity to the cherry blossom scent was made more active in the mice's sperm.
Both the mice's offspring, and their offspring, were "extremely sensitive" to cherry blossom and would avoid the scent, despite never having experiencing it in their lives. Changes in brain structure were also found. "The experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations."
The findings provide evidence of "transgenerational epigenetic inheritance" - that the environment can affect an individual's genetics, which can in turn be passed on. "This might be one mechanism that descendants show imprints of their ancestor. There is absolutely no doubt that what happens to the sperm and egg will affect subsequent generations."
"It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously. I suspect we will not understand the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders or obesity, diabetes and metabolic disruptions generally without taking a multigenerational approach." In the smell-aversion study, is it thought that either some of the odour ends up in the bloodstream which affected sperm production or that a signal from the brain was sent to the sperm to alter DNA.

Energy drinks packed with caffeine can change the way the heart beats, researchers warn. The team imaged the hearts of 17 people an hour after they had an energy drink. The study showed contractions were more forceful after the drink.
The team said that children and people with some health conditions should avoid the drinks. "Until now, we haven't known exactly what effect these energy drinks have on the function of the heart. The amount of caffeine is up to three times higher than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola. There are many side-effects known to be associated with a high intake of caffeine, including rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood pressure and, in the most severe cases, seizures or sudden death."
The researchers gave the participants a drink containing 32mg per 100ml of caffeine and 400mg per 100ml of another chemical, taurine. They showed the chamber of the heart that pumps blood around the body, the left ventricle, was contracting harder an hour after the energy drink was taken than at the start of the study.
"We've shown that energy drink consumption has a short-term impact on cardiac contractility. We don't know exactly how or if this greater contractility of the heart impacts daily activities or athletic performance." The impact on people with heart disease is also unknown. The research team advises that children and people with an irregular heart beat should avoid the drinks. The British Soft Drinks Association already says the drinks are not for children.

Cholesterol 'fuels' breast cancer - A by-product of cholesterol can fuel the deadly growth and spread of breast cancer, according to a group of scientists. It raises the prospect that taking cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins could prevent cancer.

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