Thursday, January 30, 2014

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster reports.

**Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains,
no matter how improbable, must be the truth.**
Sherlock Holmes

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 1/29/14 -

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

* In the Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone Eleven is located approximately 160 nm east-southeast ward of Cairns, Australia.
Australian Cyclone Activity hits RECORD LOW LEVELS - In Queensland, on the northeast coast of Australia, residents have been warned that a tropical low is forming off the coast this week and could quickly develop into a cyclone, to be named Dylan. The storm would be the first to hit this part of the country in more than two years, and it brings the potential for damaging winds, heavy rainfall and flooding from higher than normal tides.
Tropical cyclones are not unusual in Australia, but they used to be a lot more common. Australia has a long record of devastating tropical cyclones, such as Yasi, which made landfall in Queensland in February 2011. But a new study finds such storms to be on the decline. The frequency of these storms has reached an UNPRECEDENTED low level not seen in the past 550 to 1,500 years.
Cyclone Mahina, which struck Queensland in 1899, holds the world storm surge record at 48 feet. Instrumental records of the storms cover less than 50 years, and this observational record isn’t great for storms that happened before 1990. Researchers need some sort of marker of storm activity if they are to see how activity has changed over time. Several years ago, though, scientists discovered that stalagmites in caves held just such a record.
Cyclones have a propertly distinct from monsoons: while cyclones travel over seawater, they cannibalize the water they precipitate — water molecules with lighter oxygen are continually re-evaporated by storm clouds as the cyclone progresses, making it isotopically different from normal rain. When a cyclone dumps its rain on top of a cave, this light water soaks into the ground and starts to drip into the cave. The oxygen from the water becomes incorporated into the calcium carbonate that forms stalagmites.
In Australia, stalagmites grow with alternating dark and light bands, representing the wet and dry seasons, respectively. This means that a stalagmite can record the yearly change in hurricane activity, similar to how an ice core might hold a record of past changes in the composition of the atmosphere. By measuring the ratio of oxygen-16 to heavier oxygen-18 within the wet-season bands, scientists gain a window into the cyclone activity of a specific year in the past. Higher levels of oxygen-16 indicate a year of stronger cyclone activity.
The west coast of Australia is more prone to tropical cyclones than the east coast, but the stalagmite record revealed that the frequency of cyclones in that area has dropped off in recent years. Storm activity in that region since 1970 has not been that low for the past 1,460 years. The east coast is also at a historical low, the analysis showed, reaching levels not seen for the past 550 years.
“The Australian region seems to be experiencing the most pronounced phase of tropical cyclone inactivity for the past 550–1,500 years." These results are in line with climate models that have predicted Australia will experience fewer storms because of climate change. Those same models, however, also say that the cyclones that do hit the continent will likely be of greater intensity, which means that they’ll have a greater potential for destruction.
How climate change might alter the tracks of future hurricanes and tropical cyclones varies by region. In the North Atlantic, for instance, researchers last year found that warmer air should push storms away from the East Coast, lessening the chance for something like Sandy to hit. But the constant across predictions is that the energy added to storms by anthropogenic climate change should lead to more intense storms. That could mean more rainfall, stronger winds and higher storm surges, all of which would bring more devastation to any of the coastal areas worldwide that are unlucky enough to be struck by a storm.


The extreme weather that has been battering the UK recently has taken its toll in a number of ways. Following rain, wind, hail and thunderstorms last weekend, many parts of southwest England are completely flooded, with many people having to leave their homes. In West Bromwich, lightning struck several houses and a church, while in Wales, 22mm of rain fell during last Saturday night and Sunday. The stormy weather in Cumbria even caused the Wet Sleddale Reservoir to overflow. The weather has left many of the UK’s beaches covered in huge amounts of litter. The Marine Conservation Society is calling on people to help out with cleaning up the coastline – but only go to the beach if the weather is calm.


A dangerous winter storm swept through the U. S. Deep South on Tuesday, dumping 1 - 4" of snow and 1/4" - 1/2" of ice on a region unused to dealing with severe winter weather. Travel chaos resulted in many cities, and at least nine people died in storm-related accidents.
Officially, 2.6" of snow fell at the Atlanta Airport from Winter Storm Leon, and snow amounts across the city ranged from 1.5" - 3.5". But with temperatures in the low 20s, and only 40 snow plows and 30 sand trucks to handle the snow, Atlanta streets and highways quickly turned into parking lots during the afternoon snow, as schools, businesses, and government offices all closed nearly simultaneously, sending a huge number of vehicles onto the roads.
Atlanta experienced its WORST TRAFFIC DAY OF ALL-TIME, and thousands of motorists were forced to abandon their vehicles, with many spending the night sheltering in stores, stalled cars, or strangers' homes. A Facebook group dubbed SnowedOutAtlanta, meant to connect stranded motorists with people willing to put them up for the night, had thousands of members by Tuesday night.
Thousands of children never made it home, and were forced to spend the night both Tuesday and Wednesday at their schools or at bus shelters. There were 1200 confirmed traffic accidents in Atlanta, with at least 130 injuries. It was Atlanta's worst driving day since the infamous Snow Jam of 1982, when 6" of snow also created traffic chaos, stranding thousands of motorists.
Dangerous travel continued on Wednesday - After a morning low of 11° in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, the temperature struggled to reach the freezing mark, resulting in little improvement in road conditions during the day. A Winter Storm Warning continued for Atlanta throughout the afternoon, even though skies are sunny, and no precipitation is expected. "I don't think I've even seen a Winter Storm Warning issued with a forecast of clear skies, but if it helps keep people off the roads, it's a great idea."
At 1 pm, the Winter Storm Warning was replaced with a "Civil Emergency Message", which is the way situations like this should be handled in the future. Atlanta was warned well in advance of the winter storm, but local officials failed to plan properly for the storm. Advances in weather forecasting won't help much if people don't use the information to make the right decisions.
Though freezing rain and snow from Winter Storm Leon have ended across most of the South, temperatures well below freezing will continue to keep traffic paralyzed over a swath of the country from East Texas to Eastern North Carolina. Atlanta wasn't the only city with extreme traffic problems. Birmingham, Alabama looked much like Atlanta, with thousands of drivers stuck and hundreds of children unable to get home; Tuscaloosa, Alabama declared a state of emergency and ordered all non-emergency vehicles off the road; 124 miles of I-10 in the Florida Panhandle were closed on Wednesday morning due to ice. Fortunately, the freezing rain was not great enough to cause serious power outages, with ice accumulations generally under 1/4".

While Ohio was grappling with RECORD-BREAKING COLD on Tuesday, southern states struggled with something much worse - the ice storm.


As California's drought deepens, 17 communities across the state are in danger of running out of water within 60 to 120 days, state officials said.

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