Sunday, January 19, 2014

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

**Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over,
it became a butterfly.**

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 1/18/14 -

1/17/14 -

California - Big LA earthquake could cripple Internet, cellphone service. Twenty years after the Northridge earthquake, experts say a huge temblor across Southern California today could cripple cellphone and Wi-Fi Internet.

El Misti volcano (Peru) - signs of volcanic unrest, earthquake swarm. The volcano experienced an earthquake swarm during 14-15 January. An increase of approx. 25% in seismic activity overall with respect to last year's average was calculated, but this activity is still low and does not suggest new activity in the near future.
A total of 418 seismic events were recorded during the first half of January, most of them during the swarm that occurred on 14-15 Jan when almost 120 quakes were registered within 17 hours. From these events, 144 were so called long-period quakes (internal fluid movements), 269 volcano-tectonic earthquakes (internal rock fracturing) and 5 short pulses of tremor (internal vibration).
El Misti, which is only 17 km from the center of Arequipa city, is one of the country's major and most active volcanoes. Due to its closeness to a large city and its history of explosive eruptions, it is also one of the most dangerous volcanoes in South America, and clearly one that deserves being closely monitored.

Eruption of Shyhzerli volcano causes earthquake in Azerbaijan - Eruption of the Shyhzerli volcano - one of the most active and largest mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan, occurred due to an earthquake. "The earthquake, which occurred at about 18 kilometres away from the volcano towards Shamakhi caused eruption of the Shyhzerli volcano. An earthquake occurred two or three days before the eruption." The earthquake and the eruption did not occur on the same day, but sometimes such cases happen.
"For example, 15 minutes after the Shamakhi earthquake that destroyed the city in 1902, there was a strong eruption of the Shyhzerli volcano. Such strong earthquakes result in the volcano erupting the same day. Volcanos may also erupt a day or two days after, when the seismic wave reaches it. We have found out that the volcano itself should be ready to erupt, there should be enough energy. The earthquake simply contributes to its eruption."
Currently the situation at the Shyhzerli volcano is stable, with the eruption, the accumulated energy spilled out. In 2013, two strong eruptions were registered in Azerbaijan - the Akhtarma-Pashaly volcano in Hajigabul district erupted in April and the Shyhzerli volcano in Gobustan district erupted on Dec. 20. The Shyhzerli volcano has been erupting periodically since 1848; last year's eruption was the 23rd.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone June is located approximately 254 nm south of Noumea, New Caledonia.

* In the Western Pacific -
- Tropical depression Lingling is located approximately 365 nm east of Zamboanga, Philippines.

Cyclone June heads for New Zealand - A fresh tropical cyclone has formed in the Pacific region and is gathering strength as it heads south towards New Caledonia and New Zealand. A warning has gone out to all shipping in the path of Cyclone June to expect heavy swells and gale force winds.
June, which formed in the Coral Sea near the Solomon Islands as a category one cyclone, is expected to have intensified to category two before hitting Norfolk Island, between New Caledonia and New Zealand, on Sunday. "Tropical Cyclone June is expected to produce a prolonged period of gale force winds, heavy rainfall and moderate to heavy swells over Norfolk Island on Sunday and Monday. Damaging winds averaging above 75 kilometres per hour with gusts of about 100 kilometres per hour are expected to develop on Norfolk Island by about midday on Sunday."
Meanwhile, recovery operations continued in Tonga after Cyclone Ian slammed into the Pacific kingdom last week as a maximum category five storm and packing winds in excess of 200km/h. It left at least 4000 people homeless and destroyed vital crops in the central Ha'apai islands. The Tongan government said in a statement there was concern about the shortage of food and the supply of clean and safe drinking water. The health inspector in charge of water and sanitation said the low-lying areas of Ha'apai were in a critical situation because of rising sea levels contaminating wells, and most rooftop collection systems were destroyed during the cyclone.

Cyclone Deliwe Heading for Mozambican Coast - The tropical cyclone formed in the Mozambique Channel, and on Friday was forecast to make its way towards the Mozambican coast over the next three days, bringing strong winds and torrential rain to the south of the country.
Cyclone Deliwe moved down the western coast of Madagascar, picking up speed. At 06.00 on Friday the cyclone was generating winds of 83 kilometres an hour, with gusts of over 100 kilometres an hour. As it moves over open water, the storm is expected to gather strength. The forecast for Saturday morning was for winds of up to 120 kilometres an hour.
It is not yet clear whether Deliwe will strike the Mozambican coast, but the National Meteorology Institute warns that it is heading towards Inhambane province. Thunderstorms and heavy rains can be expected in the southern part of the Mozambique Channel over the next four days. The cyclone is moving west at a speed of 12 knots (22 kilometres an hour). It will create dangerous conditions at sea, with waves up to five metres high. INAM urges that shipping in the south of the Channel should take precautionary measures, as should people living in the coastal strip of Inhambane and Gaza provinces.

Thousands flee storm, persistent floods in Philippines - Thousands of people are fleeing rising floodwaters in a fresh round of evacuations in the southern Philippines, officials said on Friday as the death toll from a week of bad weather rose to 34. At least 8,000 people fled villages along the flooded banks of the Agusan river on Mindanao island in the past 24 hours. “The rains come to this region around this time, but this year has been terrible.”
The fresh round of evacuations brought the number of people temporarily sheltering in schools and government buildings in the Agusan region to nearly 59,000. Some have been there since heavy rains began on January 10. Parts of Butuan city, the regional capital, and more than 200 villages and districts lining the banks of the Agusan are flooded. Floods and landslides unleashed by heavy rains killed 15 people in the Agusan region, including a woman who drowned on Thursday.
Nineteen other people were killed earlier in the week along Mindanao’s east coast, including areas still recovering from Typhoon Bopha that left 1,900 people dead or missing in December 2012. About 155,000 other people were staying in evacuation centres in these areas. A weather system (Lingling) offshore that had earlier threatened to become a full-pledged tropical storm had caused the heavier-than-usual rains over Mindanao.


Nearly 50 of Britain's special wildlife sites were hit in the "devastating" recent flooding, according to a new assessment. Initial surveys have revealed how storms and surges breached embankments and wrecked pumping machinery. Otters and seal pups were among the animals caught by the inundations and there are long-term fears for the loss of coastal habitats. The scale of the damage was "potentially very serious".
"This is WORSE THAN ANYTHING WE'VE EVER SEEN BEFORE. This impact of this TIDAL SURGE WAS THE HIGHEST EVER RECORDED in many parts and the impact to these wildlife sites is in many cases devastating." The tidal surge that hit the east coast of England on 5 and 6 December was particularly damaging and even now the full scale of its impact is not understood.
"At least 48" Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England have been affected - and 37 of them are of international importance. The floods would "drive a number of significant changes to coastal conservation sites with multiple breaches making it illogical to try to retain the status quo". The total number of wildlife sites affected is likely to rise in the wake of the most recent storms.
At the maximum extent of the flooding, 4,500 hectares of designated coastal reserves were under water. Initial reports said as many as 170 seal pups may have been swept away from colonies on the north Norfolk coast but later surveys suggest that fewer were lost. One of the greatest concerns is for the future of rare freshwater habitats close to the coast - multiple breaches in the sea defences allowed saltwater to pour through, swamping ecosystems that rely on freshwater.
"The initial damage when the sea comes piling in is often physical and in fact in some cases birds are actually drowned because they could not fly away in extreme winds and high waves. But it's more a case of the long-term damage - when you get breaches, the sea is coming in on every spring tide. It's going to be flooding on a regular basis and changing the salinity for ever."
"It'll take us a while to know exactly how bad it's been but there are insects and freshwater fish and the building blocks of the freshwater food chain which could be devastated. Generally you'd expect freshwater habitats that have been filled with seawater to be in a really bad way. You've got otters along here, you've get rare birds like the bittern which is a fish eating bird and you've got all the waders and herons which all depend on the smaller creatures - the frogs and the insects and the like. So it's not just about losing some invisible insects but potentially losing the base of a pyramid that includes all the other species as well."
The hope is that the natural resilience of many species will aid recovery - or that there are isolated pockets where freshwater species have survived and can begin the process of recovery. The damage to defences is on such a massive scale that the Environment Agency and other bodies face difficult questions about whether repairs can be justified.


Bees not coping with extreme weather in Australia - Extreme weather conditions this year have wreaked havoc on the honey industry nationwide. The Australian Honey Bee Industry Council said this year's wet spring and hot summer would deliver the LOWEST NATIONAL HONEY YIELDS FOR 10 YEARS with the annual supply falling by 50 per cent.
"It is a dire time for the honey industry with both apiarists and honey packers bracing themselves for the next 12 months. We have witnessed the perfect storm of negative weather conditions. This will no doubt make it hard for some companies to meet contracts with supermarkets and supply their full range of products." The honey season was shorter in Tasmania and apiarists across the state were averaging about 30per cent of their annual yield.
"Because we had a late spring, the clover honey season is now overlapping into our leatherwood honey season. Some apiarists have had to pull up their hives part way through production in order to maximise their leatherwood yield, which is more lucrative than the clover. But if we have any more hot days, around 40 degrees, the leatherwood flowers will die off and we will have even less honey."


Earth SET A NEW RECORD for billion-dollar weather disasters in 2013 with 41.


Is our Sun falling silent? - "I've been a solar physicist for 30 years, and I've never seen anything quite like this," says the head of space physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The Sun's face is strangely featureless. "If you want to go back to see when the Sun was this inactive... you've got to go back about 100 years."
This solar lull is baffling scientists, because right now the Sun should be awash with activity. It has reached its solar maximum, the point in its 11-year cycle where activity is at a peak.This giant ball of plasma should be peppered with sunspots, exploding with flares and spewing out huge clouds of charged particles into space in the form of coronal mass ejections. But apart from the odd event, like some recent solar flares, it has been very quiet. And this damp squib of a maximum follows a solar minimum - the period when the Sun's activity troughs - that was longer and lower than scientists expected.
"It's completely taken me and many other solar scientists by surprise." The drop off in activity is happening surprisingly quickly, and scientists are now watching closely to see if it will continue to plummet. "It could mean a very, very inactive star, it would feel like the Sun is asleep... a very dormant ball of gas at the centre of our Solar System."
This, though, would certainly not be the first time this has happened. During the latter half of the 17th Century, the Sun went through an extremely quiet phase - a period called the Maunder Minimum. Historical records reveal that sunspots virtually disappeared during this time. "There is a very strong hint that the Sun is acting in the same way now as it did in the run-up to the Maunder Minimum."
There is a significant chance that the Sun could become increasingly quiet. An analysis of ice-cores, which hold a long-term record of solar activity, suggests the decline in activity is the FASTEST THAT HAS BEEN SEEN IN 10,000 YEARS. "It's an UNUSUALLY RAPID DECLINE."
"We estimate that within about 40 years or so there is a 10% to 20% - nearer 20% - probability that we'll be back in Maunder Minimum conditions." The era of solar inactivity in the 17th Century coincided with a period of bitterly cold winters in Europe. Londoners enjoyed frost fairs on the Thames after it froze over, snow cover across the continent increased, the Baltic Sea iced over - the conditions were so harsh, some describe it as a mini-Ice Age.
"It's a very active research topic at the present time, but we do think there is a mechanism in Europe where we should expect more cold winters when solar activity is low." This local effect happens because the amount of ultraviolet light radiating from the Sun dips when solar activity is low. This means that less UV radiation hits the stratosphere - the layer of air that sits high above the Earth. And this in turn feeds into the jet stream - the fast-flowing air current in the upper atmosphere that can drive the weather.
The results of this are dominantly felt above Europe. "These are large meanders in the jet stream, and they're called blocking events because they block off the normal moist, mild winds we get from the Atlantic, and instead we get cold air being dragged down from the Arctic and from Russia. These are what we call a cold snap... a series of three or four cold snaps in a row adds up to a cold winter. And that's quite likely what we'll see as solar activity declines."
"If the Sun were to get very quiet, one of the few things that would happen is that we'd have very few displays of the northern lights. They are driven by solar activity, and we'd miss out on this beautiful natural phenomenon." However, there could be positive effects too. "Solar activity drives a whole range of space weather, and these are ultimately effects on the electricity networks, on satellites, on radio communications and GPS on your sat-nav." And while scientists cannot discount that the random bursts of activity may still occur, calmer periods of space weather would help to maintain the technological infrastructure that we rely so heavily on.
While the full consequences of a quietening Sun are not fully understood, one thing scientists are certain about is that our star is unpredictable, and anything could happen next. "This feels like a period where it's very strange... but also it stresses that we don't really understand the star that we live with. Because it's complicated - it's a complex beast."

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