Sunday, December 15, 2013

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

**Knowledge and not doing are equal
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LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/14/13 -

12/13/13 -

Japan - A 5.5 Tokyo earthquake rattled residents enjoying their Saturday evening and shook the skyscrapers that make up on of the largest cities in the world. However, no damages or injuries were reported and no tsunami warning was issued.

Costa Rica Volcano Tourism Warning - Volcanologists from the National Seismic Network are concerned about the Poas volcano in the province of Alajuela, which has been emitting a considerable amount of gases over the last few weeks. Recent volcanic activity along with sulphuric emissions and the heavy presence of noxious gases are prompting national park rangers in Costa Rica to take precautions with regard to visitors. Volcano tourism is very popular in Costa Rica during this season, and some of the most-visited volcanoes are certainly showing off their natural beauty.
“The problem is dependent on the wind direction. The Poas volcano is the most active in terms of gasification, which has been constant. Sometimes you arrive at the gate [of the national park] and there’s this strong sulphur smell. This is when you have to be careful, because it means that the wind is picking up and could hit the observatory.”
This gasification and expulsion of gases conforms to phreatic (groundwater) eruptions, which often consists of gas expulsions on the surface of the numerous lagoons, which bubble up and release sulphuric and other pestilent gases. These phreatic eruptions are quite spectacular and a treat for tourists, but no one should be exposed to these gases for more than five minutes.
People who suffer from high blood pressure or asthma should evacuate the volcano observatories if they do not feel well during a phreatic eruption or on a windy day. Some people tend to be more sensitive than others and will quickly develop allergic rashes and feel irritation on their throats and skin.
The Costa Rica Star recently reported on the awakening of the iconic Arenal volcano, which tends to attract many adventuresome tourists. There are some dangers associated with volcano tourism; for this reason, it is important to heed the warnings of national park rangers.

Indonesia - Sumatran Eruptions Keep Volcano Refugees from Going Home. Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung volcano continued to spew ash and send lava down its slopes, keeping thousands of people, who were forced from their homes weeks ago, in temporary housing. 17,713 people have now been displaced by the ongoing eruptions and are staying at 31 evacuation camps.
The volcano has become increasingly active since September, erupting numerous times. People fled to safety in October after powerful blasts sent hot ash and gravel spewing from the summit. Ash from the blasts has destroyed thousands of acres of farmland, inflicting millions of dollars of losses to farmers near the mountain’s slopes.
Mount Sinabung surprised scientists in September 2010 by erupting suddenly for the first time in 400 years. Two weeks of eruptions at that time forced more than 30,000 people from their homes. (dramatic photo at link)

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

Taming Hurricanes With Wind Turbines - How can one significantly reduce the winds of nature’s most destructive storms, and at the same time provide up to half of the world’s electric power? The answer, according to a scientist is to install massive arrays of tens of thousands of offshore wind turbines, which can extract wind energy from hurricanes and dramatically reduce their winds and storm surges.
Using a 3-D global atmospheric computer model ofthe U.S. coast, he ran simulations of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, and studied how an array of 70,000 wind turbines that generate 300 Gigawatts of power placed along the coast might impact these storms. The simulations showed that as the outer winds of these hurricanes moved over the wind turbines, they extracted enough energy from the storms to reduce the winds by 50%, and increase the central pressure by 16 mb. A decrease in the storm surge of 6% - 72% occurred as a result.
The wind turbines used in the study shut down when winds hit 76 mph, and are destroyed at wind speeds of 112 mph. The eyewall winds of Katrina did destroy a number of turbines in the simulation. Even so, the cost of the lost turbines in such a case would likely be made up for by the reduced damage of the hurricane’s winds and storm surge at the coast due to the presence of the wind turbine array.
More research needs to be done on how large wind turbine arrays might affect the weather. These turbines could potentially cause significant changes to precipitation patterns along the coast. In the Southeast U.S., tropical cyclones provide 15 - 20% of the annual precipitation, and 20% - 50% of all droughts between 1960 - 2009 were busted by a landfalling tropical storm or hurricane.
If wind turbine arrays reduce the intensity of tropical storms making landfall, it makes sense that the amount of rain they dump will also decline. Droughts are often more damaging than hurricanes, and it may be necessary to shut down a large array of coastal wind turbines in a situation where a tropical storm or hurricane with drought-busting rains is headed for a drought region. Who should make this decision? How strong of a storm should we let hit? There are many tough questions to answer.
A 2012 paper found that there is enough wind to exceed the total world energy demand by several times, even after accounting for reductions in wind speed caused by the wind turbines. Their model showed that 4 million turbines, each operating at a height of 100 meters and producing 5 megawatts, could supply 7.5 terawatts of power - more than half the world's all-purpose power demand - without significant negative effects on the climate.
"To get there, however, we have a long way to go. Today, we have installed a little over 1 percent of the wind power needed." Half of the 4 million turbines would be situated over water, and the other 2 million would require a little more than 0.5% percent of Earth's land surface - about half the area of the state of Alaska. However, virtually none of this area would be used solely for wind, but could serve dual purposes such as open space, farmland, ranchland or wildlife preserve.


Floods from storm Alexa force Gazans to leave homes - More than 5,000 people in the Gaza Strip have been evacuated from their homes because of severe floods caused by torrential rain. Rescuers have had to use rowing boats to reach residents trapped by rising floodwaters. United Nations officials have described parts of the northern Gaza Strip as a disaster area.
The winter storm, called Alexa, has covered parts of the West Bank and Israel with heavy snow. UNUSUALLY HARSH winter weather is causing disruption across the region. Areas in the West Bank and Israel have seen THE HEAVIEST SNOW FOR DECADES. Residents in the Palestinian territory were already enduring power cuts due to fuel shortages.
Large swathes of Gaza had "water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabaliya have become a massive lake with 2m-high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands." Thousands of people have been moved to schools and other temporary shelters after the heavy rain over the past four days. Roads into Jerusalem are closed to private cars. Officials say around 30,000 homes are without electricity in Israel. (photos at link)
Video (1:33 minutes)

Scotland battered by severe gales - Severe gales and heavy rain have swept across parts of Scotland with gusts of 60 to 70mph in some areas. A number of ferry services on the west coast were cancelled and Traffic Scotland warned drivers of crosswinds and falling trees and debris.
Flooding and problems with overhead wires affected some ScotRail lines and some football matches were called off. Bridges have also been affected, with the Forth, Tay, Skye and Kessock road bridges closed to high-sided vehicles. The high winds also affected driving conditions on the Friarton Bridge, near Perth, the Erskine Bridge and the Dornoch Bridge.
The Met Office issued a yellow "be aware" warning of high winds throughout Scotland, and many remain for Sunday. Gusts of 66mph were recorded on Saturday at Inverbervie in Aberdeenshire and Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway, while winds of 65mph hit South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Edinburgh and Glasgow were buffeted by wind speeds of up to 47mph, temporarily closing some attractions.
On higher ground, a gust of 102mph was registered on the Applecross peninsula in Wester Ross and speeds of 111mph recorded near Tomintoul in the Cairngorms National Park. Edinburgh Airport said it was also experiencing disruption due to the bad weather. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency said heavy rain was expected to continue to fall until early on Sunday morning and low-lying land in the area could be at risk. It has four flood warnings in place for Carse of Lennoch to Lochlane, Crieff to Innerpeffray, Glen Lyon and Innerpeffray to Bridge of Earn.
There are also a number of flood alerts in place for Argyll and Bute, Caithness and Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland, Skye and Lochaber, Wester Ross and the Western Isles. Sepa warned that rivers were are also running high in areas including Skye and Tayside due to the heavy rain. Flooding and surface water are also causing problems on roads in Dumfries and Galloway. Power cables were brought down in South Ayrshire. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it responded to numerous calls about the weather, including fallen trees, flooded roads and loose roof slates.
About 20 people were evacuated from Whitburn Junior Social Club in Whitburn, West Lothian, and an adjacent bungalow, after heavy tin roof sheeting blew off a nearby pavilion onto both buildings at about 12:00 GMT. No-one was hurt. Police Scotland urged drivers to take care and reduce their speed on the roads during the poor weather.
The gales are expected to continue to affect the west coast on Sunday, with the severe weather warning remaining in place for the Highlands, Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and Strathclyde between midday and midnight. Again, large waves caused by the very strong winds, particularly around times of high tide, may also become an issue along exposed coasts, emergency services have warned.
A storm on 5 December killed a lorry driver after his vehicle was blown on to two cars in Bathgate, West Lothian, while more than 100,000 homes across Scotland had their power cut. Winds gusting more than 140mph were recorded on Aonach Mor in the Highlands, while the Met Office also recorded a gust of 106mph at Glenogle in Stirlingshire. Winds reached 59mph in Edinburgh and 63mph in Glasgow (photos at link)


Winter snowstorm hits U.S. New England area - A blustery winter snowstorm swept into New England on Saturday night, creating hazardous highway conditions across the region and disrupting air traffic throughout the nation.
A mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain is blanketing the northeast, from Missouri to Maine. The massive storm is stretching between 23 states. A strong storm pelted the Midwest and Northeast with heavy snow on Saturday, with some areas already seeing a foot on the ground and forecasts predicting that up to 20 states and 70 million people will feel its polar conditions through the weekend.
The National Weather Service forecast “a wintry mix of precipitation” including snow, sleet and freezing rain flowing from the Midwest into the Northeast this weekend. Parts of New England could see up to a foot by the time the front pulls out early Sunday and ushers in high winds that could be a hazard of their own. Up to 14 inches could fall in coastal towns in Maine.
By late morning Saturday, the winter storm was producing snow over parts of Illinois, Indiana, Northern Ohio, with portions of West-Central Indiana already seeing 11 inches of snowfall. Areas west of St. Louis were forecast to see 6 to 7 inches and the Chicago area was looking at 2 to 4 inches. “Eventually that snow is going to end by this evening and the snow will pick up in the Northeast as the afternoon goes on.”
New York City had also seen an “initial burst” of snowfall with heavier levels predicted throughout the region into the afternoon and evening. On Saturday night that snow would change to sleet, followed by freezing rain. The “quick-hitter” storm would stretch as far as Maine by Sunday. Interstate travel could be affected, with interstate roads in Illinois, Indiana and parts of Missouri “snow packed.” “Until those are plowed away there’s going to be some rough travel.” The Missouri State Highway Patrol has confirmed three fatalities attributed to the recent winter weather.
Air travel was also affected as airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights on Saturday. There were an additional 2,653 flight delays. The storm could also impact commerce, with the snow stopping some holiday shoppers in their tracks. (videos and photos at link)

Utah - Recent Extreme Weather Exacerbates Slide Potential. Rock slides in Southern Utah or even in the Salt Lake Valley Canyons are not unusual, but geologists are surprised to hear about a deadly rock slide that took out a house and killed two people. "It was surprising. It was a tragic event."
Rock slides are happening a lot more than people think around the state, especially in the Rockville area where homes are built right underneath potential slides. "In retrospect I'm not too surprised by it." Other rockslides have been seen along canyon roadways where crews have had to be shut down to traffic in order to clean up the boulders on the roadway.
The problem with rockslides is you can't tell exactly when they are going to happen. "Rock falls are very difficult to predict." The slide in Rockville had to be caused by the extreme weather Southern Utah saw this past week where it snowed, froze and then started to thaw. "When snow comes and then melts that water gets into those cracks. We then go through a freeze thaw cycle and when the ice forms it has greater volume it expands then that can be enough to break the rock along those fractures and cause it to fall over."
When it comes to rock falls and where they are going to happen – the best advice is to look up at your surroundings. "All you can do is sort of try and make sure you don't build human occupation areas close to where there might be potential rock fall."


California - Santa Ana winds could cause extreme fire danger. A high-pressure system building over the L.A. Los Angeles Basin could create dangerous fire conditions as Santa Ana winds blow over the Southland through today.

Western Australia - bushfire is controlled but not contained. A bushfire warning has been downgraded to a watch-and-act alert as firefighters battle a blaze that is threatening lives and homes northeast of Perth.

Drought and Food Shortages Hit Malawi - A severe drought in Malawi is creating food shortages and forcing women to wait all day in line at boreholes to get what little water they can.

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