Thursday, December 12, 2013

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

**Protect your bagels. Put lox on them.**

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 12/11/13 -

Enormous earthquakes ‘are missing’ from records - The Earth could have been struck by many more huge earthquakes in its recent history than was previously thought, scientists say. Research suggests that half of all quakes measuring more than 8.5 in magnitude that hit in the 19th Century are missing from records.
Scientists are scanning historical documents for the lost tremors. "If you try to make a statistical case there are too few earthquakes in the 19th Century." Earthquakes measuring more than M8.5 cause immense devastation. Recent examples include the 2004 quake in the Indian Ocean that unleashed a deadly tsunami, Chile's massive 2010 earthquake, and the 2011 event in Japan. But records before the 20th Century are strangely devoid of natural disasters on this scale. "Seismometers were developed around 1900. As soon as we had them, earthquakes started to look bigger."
Researchers use historical documents to track down seismic events that occurred before this and assess their magnitude. Many large earthquakes in the 18th and 19th Century have been missed. One reason for this is because there is a general assumption that earthquakes measuring M8.5 and above generate significant tsunamis. "But this isn't always the case, and the magnitudes for some of these earthquakes has been underestimated."
A candidate is a quake that hit Kamchatka in Russia in 1841. Its magnitude had been thought to be 8.3, but now it perhaps should be upgraded to M9.2. Another is a quake that struck in the Lesser Antilles in 1843. "This was catalogued at a low magnitude 8. It turns out it was felt by a quarter of the globe."
The researchers say finding these lost earthquakes is vital to help them assess where and when these deadly events could strike next. Scientists have created a database of earthquakes that occurred in the years 1000 to 1900. The database provides a "warning from history. For example, with the Fukushima disaster - people were surprised that there was such a large tsunami. But it happened before. There was a historical earthquake in the 9th Century that was very similar."
The catastrophic earthquake that hit Port-Au-Prince in Haiti in 2010 was another example. "People shouldn't have been surprised that an earthquake happened there. There was a very similar earthquake in the 18th Century."


Sumatra, Indonesia, coastal cave records stunning tsunami history - A cave on the northwestern coast of Sumatra holds a remarkable record of big tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. The limestone opening, close to Banda Aceh, retains the sandy deposits washed ashore by huge, earthquake-induced waves over thousands of years. Scientists are using the site to help determine the frequency of catastrophes like the event of 26 December 2004. This is being done by dating the cave's tsunami-borne sediments, which are easy to see between layers of bat droppings.
"The tsunami sands just jump right out at you because they're separated by guano layers. There's no confusing the stratigraphy (layering)... from a geologist's point of view, this cave has the most amazing stratigraphy." Sumatra's proximity to the Indo-Australia and Sunda tectonic plate boundary, and the giant earthquakes that occur there, means its shores are at risk of major inundations. Understanding how often these occur is important for policy and planning in the region.
The Acehnese cave lies about 100m back from the swash zone at current high-tide. Its entrance is also raised somewhat, and this prevents all waters from getting into the opening - apart from tsunamis and severe storm surges. The scientists know they are looking at tsunami deposits because they can find debris in the sediments of seafloor organisms such as microscopic foraminifera. Only the most energetic waves could have lifted and carried this material into the cave.
The investigations are ongoing but the team thinks it can see deposition from perhaps 7-10 tsunamis. The geometry of the cave means these events would likely have been generated by earthquakes of Magnitude 8, or more. By way of comparison, the devastation wrought by 26 December 2004 stemmed from a M9.2 tremor.
Today, the cave is so full of sand and bat droppings that any new event will essentially overwash and erode the most recent deposits. "The 2004 tsunami completely inundated the cave." Nonetheless, the stratigraphy from about 7,500 to 3,000 years ago is impeccable. "What we think we have is actually a near-complete sequence of late-Holocene deposits. This is amazing because usually the records we have are fragmentary at best. This coastal cave is a unique 'depot centre', and it's giving us a remarkable snapshot of several thousands of years, allowing us to figure out every single tsunami that would have taken place during that time."
The team's other investigations along the Acehnese coast are filling in the period from 3,000 years ago to the present. And the take-home message from all this research is that the biggest tsunamis are not evenly spaced through time. Yes, there can be long periods of quiescence, but you can also get MAJOR EVENTS THAT ARE SEPARATED BY JUST A FEW DECADES.
"2004 caught everybody by surprise. And why was that? Because nobody had been looking back to see how often they happen, if they'd ever happened. In fact, because people thought they had no history of such things, they thought it was impossible. Nobody was prepared, nobody had even given it a second thought. So the reason we look back in time is so we can learn how the Earth works and how it might work during our watch." [Site note - It isn't precisely true that 'nobody had given it a second thought', as a noted scientist was publicly warning for several years prior to 2004 about the tsunami danger in Indonesia, even going door-to-door to the hotels and resorts trying to get them to post notices of the tsunami danger and of the warning signs such as the ocean suddenly receding.] (photos at link)

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the North Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone Madi is located approximately located about 560 km east-northeast of Chennai, India and 820 km north-northeast of Sri Lanka.
Cyclone 'Madi' grows weak, Kerala, India, spared major effects. The severe cyclonic storm Madi over west-central and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal that waned on Monday evening and moved northwards on Tuesday will not have any major effect on Kerala, according to officials with the Indian Meteorological Department. They have, however, indicated the possibility of rain or thundershowers in isolated parts of Kerala for the next 48 hours.
"Cyclonic storm Madi has grown less strong and hence will not leave any major effect on Kerala. Thundershowers and rains may be experienced in isolated parts of the state for the next two days. The northeast winds too have been growing weak as part of the northeast monsoon and there is no cause for panic since IMD will be providing updates every six hours."
"Cyclone Madi will have no direct effect in Kerala and landfall in Tamil Nadu in also unlikely as it has moved north of the Bay of Bengal. Cyclone Madi that is currently , would move northwards before taking a southwest re-curve and will gradually weaken. As a result, rainfall is likely at isolated places over coastal Andhra Pradesh, coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry during the next 48 hours. Rainfall may also be experienced at several places in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during next 48 hours. Fishermen along and off Tamilnadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh coasts have been advised caution while venturing into the sea and should ideally not venture into deep sea in the next 72 hours.
Meanwhile, residents of Kozhikode and Malappuram have experienced tremors for three consecutive days, the last being on Tuesday. Some houses in the region have developed cracks as a result. On Monday, an earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, occurred in Malappuram district, after a quake of 3.1 magnitude on Sunday. A team will visit the earthquake-affected areas in Kozhikode to interact with people and help reduce public anxiety besides providing precautionary measures "as earthquakes cannot be predicted."
Weather to turn dry as Cyclone Madi fizzles out - India is set for a spell of dry weather in the coming days. The weather in South India, which has been cloudy and rainy for the last few weeks due to successive cyclones, will now turn dry and warm as the latest one, Cyclone Madi, fizzles out. Until the cyclone dies down completely, South India will be cloudy with isolated light showers in the next 24 hours. There has hardly been any rain in the region in the last two to three days due to which the maximum temperatures have risen by about 3 to 4 degrees Celsius. Maximums in Chennai rose to 32ºC as opposed to 28ºC in the last few days.
Other than the east coast, temperatures are already quite high in the interiors and along the west coast, with maximums ranging between 32 to 35 degrees. Hunavar in coastal Karnataka has constantly been witnessing high temperatures of 35ºC, whereas Mumbai recorded 34.7ºC as the maximum temperature on Tuesday evening.
On the other hand, weather in North India is already dry. Almost half the month of December is over but no rain has been recorded in the plains till now. Rain and snow in Jammu and Kashmir has also been minimal. “We are reaching a time where we should no more experience dry spells in North India. Lack of a system in the Bay of Bengal and an arrival of a fresh Western Disturbance could bring some rain or cloudy weather in Delhi and North India after the 17th or 18th of December.” Except Jammu and Kashmir where light rain or snow is possible in the higher reaches, the weather in India will remain dry for the coming days, due to the lack of a system. Parts of East, Northeast and Central India will also not observe any major changes other than light fog or marginal variation in temperatures.


Lebanon - Winter storm. The UN says it is "extremely concerned" for Syrian refugees in Lebanon as a fierce winter storm bears down. There has been snow, rain, high winds and freezing temperatures in the north of the country and the Bekaa Valley, home to more than 200 informal camps. Syrian refugees are living in makeshift homes in the harsh winter conditions.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said it was "working harder than ever" to protect the more than 800,000 Syrians sheltering in Lebanon. The Lebanese army is helping distribute emergency kits, including blankets. "We are worried, because it is really cold in the Bekaa region, and we're extremely worried about the refugees living in makeshift shelters, because many are really substandard."
At least 80,000 refugees will have to spend the winter in tents. Many others are living in unfinished or unheated buildings with only slightly more protection. Iems have been stockpiled to help refugees whose shelters might be damaged or destroyed, including plastic sheeting, floor mats, blankets and mattresses. Supplies have also been given to local councils. "The Syrian refugees here are shivering with cold, especially the ones in tents," said a councillor in Arsal, a town in the northern Bekaa Valley that has seen 20,000 people arrive in the past few months. "Water has come into the tents from the roofs, and from the ground where there is flooding. At the moment there is more than 10cm (3.9in) of snow on the ground, but more is expected."
In the Bekaa Valley, one family were feeding their fire with old shoes because they could not afford firewood, despite their children being barefoot. There are similar scenes across the region as hundreds of thousands of refugees improvise desperately to stay alive. Forecasters are predicting between 7.6cm and 13cm of snow in total.
The latest warning comes after the UNHCR announced on Tuesday that it would be airlifting food and other aid items into northern Syria from Iraq for the first time. Twelve planeloads of supplies will be flown in over the next few days, ahead of what the UN fears will be THE REGION'S HARSHEST WINTER IN A CENTURY. The decision was made after land convoys were shot at, harassed, and detained at check points.
Almost 2.3 million Syrians have fled into neighbouring countries since the uprising against their President began in March 2011. There are also an estimated 6.5 million internally displaced people inside Syria, and many more in need of aid.

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