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LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
5.8 CELEBES SEA
5.0 STATE OF YAP, MICRONESIA
Yesterday, 4/16/14 -
5.1 SOUTHERN IRAN
5.0 CENTRAL ALASKA
5.4 BOUGAINVILLE REGION, P.N.G.
5.0 OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.1 FIJI REGION
Hundreds of earthquake rattle nerves in central Idaho - Hundreds of low-level and medium-sized earthquakes have struck central Idaho since last month, puzzling geologists who wonder whether the ruptures portend a much larger temblor to come or are merely the rumblings of a seismic fault previously thought to be dormant.
The recent earthquake swarm, beginning on March 24 and climaxed by a 4.9 magnitude tremor on Saturday, has produced no reports of injuries or severe damage but has rattled nerves in a region where Idaho’s most powerful known quake, measured at 6.9, killed two children in 1983 and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.
Saturday’s earthquake was the strongest recorded in the state since 2005 and was followed on Monday by a magnitude 4.4 event that struck 10 miles north of the small ranching community of Challis, Idaho. The Challis tremor knocked pictures and animal mounts from walls, rattled dishes off tables and was felt by residents in neighboring Montana more than 100 miles from the quake’s epicenter.
The latest seismic surge, including 100 small to moderate quakes on Monday alone, has galvanized government scientists, who planned to install special seismometers in the area as early as Tuesday to more closely track the activity. The likelihood of a severe earthquake coming on the heels of the recent swarm is low, but much is perplexing about the series of tremors.
Such earthquake swarms typically are associated with the movement of molten rock below ground, which geologists credited for the recent quake cluster at Yellowstone National Park, or they are linked to an active fault. “What has many of us scratching our heads is the present-day swarm doesn’t appear to be on the big, active fault in the area that ruptured in 1983 and caused the largest earthquake in Idaho."
Idaho sits at the center of a seismic belt in the intermountain West that runs from northwestern Montana to southern Nevada and contains thousands of faults in the Earth’s crust. Challis schools have stepped up earthquake drills, and requested that emergency responders in Idaho and Utah be available if disaster strikes. Local residents are being advised to keep bottled water and canned goods on hand just in case “a big shaker” should strike. “It does make your heart race a little bit to see your windows vibrating."
Earthquakes diminish in Nicaragua, but country remains on red alert - The earthquakes have decreased in Nicaragua. However, the country planned Wednesday to maintain the current red alert.
Philippines - Taal, Mayon volcanoes on Alert level 1. Alert level 1 has been raised over Taal and Mayon Volcanoes after volcanic earthquakes were recorded Wednesday morning.
Peru's Ubinas volcano spews 4000-metre high ash cloud - Ubinas volcano in southwest Peru has continued to erupt, sending smoke and ash into the air more than 4000-metres high. The Scientific Permanent Monitoring Committee and the Peruvian have declared Ubinas volcano on orange alert.
TROPICAL STORMS -
Current tropical storms - maps and details.
No current tropical storms.
New Zealand - The remnants of Cyclone Ita are speading down the country, ripping off roofs in Auckland, felling trees in the Waikato and disrupting travel. Wild weather pounding the country has caused widespread road closures, flooding, damaged properties, power outages and treacherous driving conditions.
The Fire Service had received more than 1000 emergency calls by 4pm as rain and gale-force winds hammered much of the country. Auckland and West Coast took the brunt, with 291 calls in the northern region and 227 on the West Coast. Police earlier had fears a bridge near Katikati could break with rivers in the Bay of Plenty starting to swell, as a storm system bringing gales and rain is hammering much of the country. "We are concerned the bridge may break. We are also very concerned about the second high tide at 9pm tonight, and there may be further road closures."
Waikato police were also advising against all but essential travel to or around the Coromandel, following the first heavy rains in several months. By 5pm roads were still closed due to a number of slips, fallen trees and flooding, with police urging people to postpone travel to tomorrow - and even then, check weather and road closures. The Whitianga-Tairua road has reopened, but Tairua is cut off to the south, and expected to stay that way throughout the night. Pauanui access road is closed, and with the tide rising it could stay shut all night. Kopu Hikaui Road is also shut.
This evening there were very significant traffic jams around SH2/SH25 and around Kopu. Police urged patience as the backlog will take a long time to clear. In the South Island, the extreme conditions were pushing emergency services to the limit on the West Coast. Vehicles have blown over, many roofs have lifted off properties and windows have been blown in, plus trees and power lines have been downed. ''And the wind is getting stronger if anything."
Cobden, near Greymouth, was being badly buffeted by the strong winds, sending debris flying around to coastal township. The road into Cobden had been closed because of the dangerous conditions. Power lines had been downed just north of Whataroa, in Westland, also closing State Highway 6. A large vehicle, possibly a truck, had been blown over near Whataroa and a bus had overturned near Reefton.
In Manawatu, emergency services are bracing themselves for what could be an afternoon of weather-related damage in the region. Gusts of up to 140kmh and heavy rain are forecast throughout the day and rivers around the region were beginning to rise. Power is out in parts of Apiti, Pohangina, Ashhurst and Aokautere due to faults. Firefighters were preparing for more callouts as the worst of the weather moved south. In Taranaki, flights have been cancelled and reports of damage were coming in as strong winds and rain took hold.
Cars on north Auckland's Whangaparaoa Rd had a close call when the roof landed on the busy four-lane arterial route at about 9.30am. No-one on the road was injured and no vehicles were hit to the surprise of motorists and emergency services. However, two elderly people in the home where the roof blew off suffered minor injuries and were taken to hospital. To the north of the city, gales have been causing havoc across Rodney and the Hibiscus Coast. Some residents say it was far worse than Cyclone Lusi on March 15. Power cuts had affected thousands of homes across the district.
Severe flooding on Auckland's waterfront, described as THE WORST EVER SEEN, trapped residents this morning. Waves crashed over the sea wall on Tamaki Dr as the high tide arrived at 8.42am. "Tamaki Dr is a disaster. People who have lived here a long time called me and said they've never seen it so bad." There were delays at Auckland Airport as the storm disrupted flights.
In Wellington, high winds and rising seas were causing delays and cancellations for Interislander ferry trips across the Cook Strait. When the ferry reached Picton, it was unable to berth. "All the boat did was go round and round the islands from 6.30am until 12 o'clock. "Three truckies on board said it was the WORST SAILING THEY'VE EVER BEEN ON, and truckies are on it almost every day." Staff checked on passengers and handed out cups of ice for passengers to put under their tongues to help with seasickness.
The Christchurch City Council is preparing ahead of heavy rainfall forecast to hit the city from this afternoon. People in low-lying areas are advised to take steps to protect their property and valuables. Contractors have been clearing grates this morning and will be on call to clear channels if required.
Otago is bracing itself for the tail-end of Cyclone Ita's fury with severe rain and wind warnings in place. Rain has started falling and is expected to become heavy by tomorrow morning. "About 120mm to 180mm is expected about higher parts of North Otago from midnight tonight to midnight tomorrow, and 50mm to 90mm elsewhere, including Dunedin."
The Met Service is predicting north-easterly winds for the province, gale-force up to 65km in coastal parts. The bad weather, which included the tail-end of Cyclone Ita was part of a larger complex weather system that contained numerous troughs and fronts sitting to the west of the country. Otago Regional Council was advising people to watch out for rapidly rising streams and rivers, surface flooding, slips, and hazardous driving conditions.
SEVERE RAIN STORMS, FLOODING, LANDSLIDES -
Extreme weather causes ship problems in Virginia and Louisiana - An evening thunderstorm with wind gusts of more than 70 mph caused a cargo ship to run aground, coming to rest just a few hundred feet from the beach and drawing plenty of onlookers from nearby condos and apartments Wednesday morning.
The Coast Guard said the weather was to blame for the grounding of the 751-foot bulk carrier and for a collision of two other vessels Tuesday night. "It's really pretty amazing. THIS IS A FIRST. I've been coming down this way for about 50 years, and I don't remember a ship being blown ashore like this."
The bulk carrier, which typically hauls coal and gravel, was anchored east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and ran aground near First Landing State Park. No injuries, damage or pollution were reported due to the grounding or the collision. The National Weather Service reported that waves reached 4 to 6 feet during the peak of the storm, with sustained winds from 30 mph to 45 mph. The collision occurred about an hour before the grounding in a main shipping channel.
Officials were trying to determine Wednesday when they would be able to free the ship, with high winds continuing throughout the morning. As the storm swept through southeastern Virginia, it knocked out power to about 28,000 people. Winds also caused 12 ships to drag anchor.
Meanwhile, the owner of a tow boat that grounded Tuesday in Lake Pontchartrain said high waves pushed by a passing storm front broke a line connecting the vessel and a barge it was pushing. The captain had no choice but to run the vessel onto rocks at the lake's south shore to keep it from sinking. "They were being tossed all over." The Coast Guard said two men were hoisted from the tow boat by an MH-65 helicopter while a third man was taken off the barge by a Coast Guard patrol boat. They were taken to hospitals for treatment of injuries described as dehydration and bruises. "Thank God above the injuries were minor."
The incident happened early Tuesday as a line of violent storms moved through the New Orleans area and along the Mississippi coast. The storms spawned high waves in Lake Pontchartrain and strong winds that overturned recreational vehicles and trailers at a camper park in Gautier, Miss., about 50 miles to the east. Several injuries were reported there.
Lake Pontchartrain is a shallow brackish lake used mostly by recreational boats and for inshore barge transportation. It connects to the Gulf of Mexico through two narrow passes on its eastern end. The site is about seven miles from the heavily trafficked 23.9-mile long causeway that connects the lake's north and south shores, both suburbs of New Orleans.
HEAVY SNOW / EXTREME COLD -
From November 2013 - January 2014, a REMARKABLE EXTREME JET STREAM PATTERN set up over North America, bringing the infamous "Polar Vortex" of cold air to the Midwest and Eastern U.S., and a "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge" of high pressure over California, which brought the worst winter drought conditions ever recorded to that state. A new study published this week found that THIS JET STREAM PATTERN WAS THE MOST EXTREME ON RECORD.
The researchers studied the historical pressure patterns for November - January over North America during the period 1960 - 2014, and found that a strong "dipole" pattern of high pressure over Western North America and low pressure over Eastern North America, such as occurred during the winter of 2013 - 2014, tended to occur naturally during the winter immediately preceding an El Niño event. Since NOAA is giving a greater than 50% of an El Niño event occurring later in 2014, this past winter's dipole pattern may have been a natural expression of the evolving progression towards El Niño.
The study also found that the dipole pattern could be intensified by two other natural resonances in the climate system: the Arctic Oscillation, and a variation of ocean temperatures and winds in the Western North Pacific called the Western North Pacific (WNP) pattern. But the dipole of high pressure over California combined with the "Polar Vortex" low pressure trough over Eastern North America during November 2013 - January 2014 was of UNPRECEDENTED INTENSITY, and extremes in this dipole pattern - -both in the positive and negative sense - -have been increasing since 2000 (the peak negative value occurred during the winter of 2009 - 2010.)
The researchers used a climate model to look at whether human-caused climate change might be interfering with the natural pattern to cause this unusual behavior. They ran their climate model both with and without the human-caused change to the base state of the climate included, and found that they could not reproduce the increase in amplitude of the dipole pattern unless human-caused global warming was included.
They concluded, "It is important to note that the dipole is projected to intensify, which implies that the periodic and inevitable droughts California will experience will exhibit more severity. The inference from this study is that the abnormal intensity of the winter ridge is traceable to human-induced warming but, more importantly, its development is potentially predicable."
The opposite sign of the dipole -- an extreme trough of low pressure over Western North American, combined with an extreme ridge of high pressure over Eastern North America -- is also expected to be more intense when it occurs, leading to an increase in extremely wet winters in California.
SPACE WEATHER -
SURPRISING TELECONNECTIONS - NASA's AIM spacecraft is discovering surprising "teleconnections" in Earth's atmosphere that link weather and climate across vast distances. Strange but true: The ground temperature in Indianapolis is correlated with the frequency of noctilucent clouds over Antarctica.
New data have revealed "teleconnections" in Earth's atmosphere that stretch all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole and back again, linking weather and climate more closely than simple geography would suggest. "We have found that the winter air temperature in Indianapolis, Indiana, is well correlated with the frequency of noctilucent clouds over Antarctica."
Noctilucent clouds, or "NLCs," are Earth's highest clouds. They form at the edge of space 83 km above our planet's polar regions in a layer of the atmosphere called the mesosphere. Seeded by "meteor smoke," NLCs are made of tiny ice crystals that glow electric blue when sunlight lances through their cloud-tops.
AIM was launched in 2007 to investigate these "night-shining" clouds, to discover how they form and to learn about their inner chemistry. As is often the case, however, when exploring the unknown, researchers found something they weren't even looking for: teleconnections.
"It has been a surprise. Years ago when we were planning the AIM mission, our attention was focused on a narrow layer of the atmosphere where NLCs form. Now we are finding out this layer manifests evidence of long-distance connections in the atmosphere far from the NLCs themselves."
One of these teleconnections links the Arctic stratosphere with the Antarctic mesosphere. "Stratospheric winds over the Arctic control circulation in the mesosphere. When northern stratospheric winds slow down, a ripple effect around the globe causes the southern mesosphere to become warmer and drier, leading to fewer NLCs. When northern winds pick up again, the southern mesosphere becomes colder and wetter, and the NLCs return."
This January, a time of year when southern NLCs are usually abundant, the AIM spacecraft observed a sudden and unexpected decline in the clouds. Interestingly, about two weeks earlier, winds in the Arctic stratosphere were strongly perturbed, leading to a distorted polar vortex. "We believe that this triggered a ripple effect that led to a decline in noctilucent clouds half-way around the world. This is the same polar vortex that made headlines this winter when parts of the USA experienced crippling cold and ice."
Indeed, there was a statistical link between winter weather in the USA and the decline in noctilucent clouds over Antarctica. "The same was true of many northern cities: cold air temperatures on the ground were correlated with NLC frequencies high above Antarctica two weeks later. The two week delay is, apparently, how much time it takes for the teleconnection signal to propagate through three layers of atmosphere (the troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere), and from pole to pole.
It is a complicated topic, but this much is clear: "NLCs are a valuable resource for studying long-distance connections in the atmosphere, and we are just getting started."
[SITE NOTE - Since the noctilucent clouds are seeded by meteor ice crystals, then doesn't it stand to reason that more ice crystals must be coming into the Arctic atmosphere? And the abundance of them spreading through the atmosphere is what made the Northern winter colder this year, and is contributing to the cold continuing into spring?]
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