Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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

**You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid
the consequences of avoiding reality.**
Ayn Rand

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/17/13 -

12/16/13 -

Washington - When Seattle shakes from quakes, it’s going to slide too. A new study finds that in Seattle more than 10,000 buildings - many of them homes - are at high risk from earthquake-triggered landslides. More than 30,000 landslides could be triggered if an earthquake hits while the ground is soggy.
With its coastal bluffs, roller-coaster hills and soggy weather, Seattle is primed for landslides even when the ground isn’t shaking. Jolt the city with a major earthquake, and a new study suggests many more slopes could collapse than previously estimated. A powerful earthquake on the fault that slices under the city’s heart could trigger more than 30,000 landslides if it strikes when the ground is saturated. More than 10,000 buildings, many of them upscale homes with water views, sit in areas at high risk of landslide damage in such a worst-case scenario.
“Our results indicate that landsliding triggered by a large Seattle fault earthquake will be extensive and potentially devastating." Coming on top of widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure caused by the quake itself, landslides would compound the city’s problems and slow its recovery. “I think the message is that we need to pay much more attention to these earthquake-induced landslides."
The Puget Sound-area landscape is pocked with scars from slides triggered by ground shaking, but the worst of them occurred long before cities existed here. The last quake on the Seattle Fault, about 1,100 years ago, shook the ground so hard that entire hillsides slumped into Lake Washington, carrying intact swaths of forest with them. Scientists estimate its magnitude at about 7.5.
Researchers studying lake-bottom sediments have also unearthed a record of as many as seven landslide episodes linked to earthquakes in the past 3,500 years. Even the relatively modest Nisqually earthquake in 2001 — which occurred during an unusual winter dry spell — set off about 100 landslides. “Because so many landslides were triggered by the last earthquake on the Seattle Fault, it was really surprising to me that no one had looked in detail at what would happen today, when those hillsides are covered with houses.”
Under dry conditions, the number of potentially destructive landslides was much lower: about 5,000, compared with the 30,000 predicted when the ground is sopping wet. But researchers were surprised that about a third of the simulated landslides in both wet and dry conditions struck in areas that AREN'T on the city’s landslide hazard maps. That includes some inland areas, where the threat of landslides has been assumed to be low.
In general, landslide damage was much more severe in neighborhoods close to and south of the fault, where shaking is expected to be strongest. That includes much of West Seattle, Beacon Hill and Mount Baker — though if a big quake hits when the ground is wet, Allstadt’s simulations predict lots of slides in North Seattle as well as along all of the region’s coastal bluffs.
The new study looks at only one possible quake and two sets of soil conditions: Bone dry and sopping wet. To help the city improve its hazard mapping, it would be necessary to consider multiple earthquake magnitudes and varying moisture levels. The study also didn’t examine the landslide consequences of a coastal megaquake, like the one that struck the Northwest in the year 1700 — and which is certain to happen again. Measuring magnitude 9 or more, coastal megaquakes are far more powerful than those the Seattle Fault can generate.
But for the city itself, a large quake on the hometown fault would be more destructive, because the force is concentrated directly under the urban area. Geologists still don’t have a good handle on how frequently the Seattle Fault ruptures, but they have uncovered evidence of at least three powerful quakes in the last 2,500 years. According to one scenario, a magnitude 6.7 quake on the Seattle Fault could kill 1,600 people and cause $33 billion in damage. That analysis glossed over the damage caused by landslides, but in major quakes, collapsing hillsides can cause as much — or more — destruction than the shaking itself.
More than half of the damage in Alaska’s 1964 Good Friday earthquake was due to landslides. In China’s 2008 Sichuan earthquake — notable for widespread damage to schools — more than 60,000 landslides were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. Utility lines and roads in the Seattle area — including Interstate 5 where it passes along Beacon Hill — are at risk from landslides. “There’s a kind of haunting precedence that tells us that we should pay attention to a large earthquake on (the Seattle Fault) because it happened in the past."

Volcano erupts in Azerbaijan - A volcano has erupted in Shabran region of Azerbaijan today. The Head of the ANAS Institute of Geology's Mud Volcano Department said that they received information about it. The employees of the Institute of Geology have been sent there and will carry out research in the area. They didn’t have exact information how much area the volcano eruption covered and how long it lasted: “We have received information from the region that the volcano erupted. We should clarify whether it was eruption or not. We sometimes receive false information from the people. Thus, relevant researches should be carried out. Exact information will be available after the researches.”

Indonesia - Sinabung volcano (Sumatra) - increasing seismic activity, red alert. The Indonesian Volcanological Survey informed in its latest press release on Tuesday that a significant increase in seismic activity was detected during the past days.
While the volcano has been relatively calm at the surface, producing only a dilute gas plume with some ash reaching about 1 km above the crater, the increase in earthquakes suggests that new magma is currently rising and could produce new (potentially large) explosions. In particular, low-frequency and so-called hybrid earthquakes, typical of fluid movements inside the volcanic edifice, have climbed to almost one 1000 per day.
Continuous volcanic tremor (internal vibration) at medium levels has also been detected over the past days. Deformation measurements with tilt-meters on the northern and eastern flank and EDM (electronic distance meters) show a fluctuating trend of inflation, suggesting the presence of an intruding magma body at shallow depth. Gas and temperature measurements are not conclusive from the VSI report, as quality / temporal coverage are insufficient.
The exclusion zone was extended to 5 km radius, and the volcano remains on highest alert level and Aviation Color Code Red, because explosive eruptions with high-level ash clouds could occur any time.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the South Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone Amara has formed approximately 1,400 miles (2,250 km) east of Madagascar.

- Tropical cyclone Four (Bruce) is located approximately 150 nm north of Cocos Island, Australia.
Tropical Cyclone Amara (03S) has formed in the South Indian Ocean. On Tuesday 17 December, the storm was at weak tropical storm strength. Over the next 96 hours, Amara is forecast to track to the west-southwest and slowly strengthen – becoming Category 1 hurricane strength by Saturday 21 December. During this period, Amara poses no threat to land – but could potentially threaten the islands of Mauritius and Reunion early next week should the storm continue tracking to the southwest.

Cocos Islands on alert as Cyclone Bruce (04S) forms. The tropical cyclone is gathering strength off the North-West coast of Western Australia, near Cocos Islands this morning.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a cyclone warning for the islands, with the system upgraded to a Category One tropical cyclone early today. The system was sitting about 215km north-northwest of Cocos Island, moving southwest at 9km/h. "Tropical Cyclone Bruce has reached category 1 intensity and is expected to continue ntensifying as it moves west-southwest and passes to the northwest of the Cocos Islands today.'' The cyclone is unlikely to impact the WA coast.
Gales with wind gusts up to 100km/h are expected on Cocos Island from this morning and are likely to continue into early Thursday morning. This afternoon winds could reach 120km/h. At 7am today the cyclone had wind gusts of 95km/h at its centre which were intensifying. Heavy rain and thunderstorms will hit the islands today as the system moves closer. Meanwhile, at the other end of the WA, Esperance, 720km south east of Perth, had a record 45.3C maximum temperature yesterday. (satellite photo at link)


A Spectacular Tropical Storm-Like Meso-Low Over Lake Superior - A small-scale "meso-low" formed in the cold Arctic air flowing over the relatively warm waters of Lake Superior on Sunday, and had a remarkably spectacular tropical storm-like appearance on radar and satellite imagery. As the meso-low moved south over Michigan's Upper Peninsula, it brought sustained winds of 20 - 25 mph and bands of moderate snow that dumped 4 - 7 inches of snow across the region. The snow was dry and fluffy, with a ration of 25:1 between the depth of the snow and depth of the equivalent melted water (a 10:1 ratio is more common in major snowstorms.)
The winds in Marquette, Michigan increased from 10 mph to 23 mph with gusts to 32 mph as the meso-low moved over at 4 pm. In nearby Munising, the pressure increased from 1005 mb to 1015 mb in four hours after the low moved through. These type of lows are not uncommon over the Great Lakes in wintertime, with an average of three appearing each winter. They arise in response to the difference in heating between the land and the lake when there is a strong contrast in temperature, and do not occur when the lakes are ice-covered. (maps and charts at link)

China - Traffic in Guizhou province affected by icy weather. Extreme weather is also affecting southwest China's Guizhou province. Freezing rain hit many parts of the region on Sunday, leading to icy situations on the roads, affecting ground traffic in many parts.
The rain coupled with the cold also suspended traffic in the mountain areas in the province where one of the most dangerous roads nationwide is located. Local governments have issued traffic warnings to drivers to avoid possible risks as well. The National Meteorological Center forecasts that snow and rain will continue to sweep Guizhou and adjacent Yunnan province over the following week.. A cold front is expected to sweep through most parts of Southern China. Many regions will see their lowest temperatures since the winter began.


California - Big Sur fire burns 500 acres of California coast amid drought anxiety. Threatened by drought, on Tuesday firefighters urgently battled a 500-acre fire with dangerous growth potential in California's Big Sur. This is a season that residents in this coastal community of rugged hills normally associate with floods, not fire. 15 homes have been destroyed and the fire is only 20% contained.

November 2013 was THE EARTH'S WARMEST NOVEMBER SINCE RECORDS BEGAN in 1880. The year-to-date period of January - November has been the 4th warmest such period on record. November 2013 global land temperatures were the 2nd warmest on record, and global ocean temperatures were the 3rd warmest on record.
November 2013 was the 345th consecutive month with global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average. Most of the world's land areas experienced warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, including much of Eurasia, coastal Africa, Central America, and central South America. Much of southern Russia, north west Kazakhstan, south India, and southern Madagascar were record warm.
Meanwhile, northern Australia, parts of North America, and southwest Greenland were cooler than average. No regions of the globe were record cold. Russia observed its warmest November since national records began in 1891. (map at link)


The four billion-dollar weather disasters of November 2013 - (same link as above article). Four new billion-dollar weather-related disasters hit the Earth during November 2013: Super Typhoon Haiyan ($5.8 billion), the November 17 tornado outbreak in the U.S. ($1.7 billion), flooding in Cambodia ($1 billion, the costliest disaster in Cambodian history), and the ongoing U.S. drought, which has been in progress all year, but with damages listed for the first time this year ($2.5 billion.)
These four disasters bring the world-wide tally of billion-dollar weather disasters so far this year to 39. This is the second highest yearly total of billion-dollar weather disasters for the globe since accurate disaster records began in 2000. However, the total cost of weather-related disasters so far in 2013 is below the average for the past ten years. The record highest number of billion-dollar weather disasters was 40, set in 2010. For comparison, during all of 2012, there were 27 billion-dollar weather disasters. The U.S. total through November 2013 is nine. (photos at link)


U.S. health watchdog cracks down on antibacterial soaps - The US health regulator has warned that antibacterial chemicals in soaps and body washes may pose health risks by creating resistance to antibiotics in humans. The Food and Drug Administration called for a safety review of such products.
It proposed a rule requiring manufacturers to prove such soaps are safe and more effective against infection than plain soap and water. Recent studies indicate an ingredient in such products could scramble hormone levels and boost drug-proof bacteria. The proposal rule does not apply to alcohol-based hand sanitizers and products used in healthcare settings. Manufacturers have until the end of 2014 to submit the results of clinical trials on their products. The new regulations would be finalised in 2016.
"New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits." Certain ingredients in such products - such as triclosan in liquid soaps and triclocarban in bar soaps - may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Such products may also have "unanticipated hormonal effects that are of concern". Recent studies of such chemicals on animals have shown they may alter hormones, but such results have not yet been proven in humans.
"Because so many consumers use them, FDA believes that there should be clearly demonstrated benefits to balance any potential risks." In March, a federal appeals court approved a lawsuit by the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council, aimed at forcing the FDA to review the health impacts of triclosan.

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