Friday, February 13, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

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LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

2/12/15 -

2/11/15 -

2/10/15 -

2/9/15 -

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck northeastern Chile on Wednesday, very close to the border with Argentina. The quake, initially reported as a major 7.0, was fairly deep at 157 miles (252 km) below the earth, which lessened its impact. Its epicenter was located 111 miles (178 km) northwest of the Argentine town of Jujuy.

No current tropical storms.


Northeast U.S. suffers more winter woes - More than 2 feet of fresh snow piled up in parts of New England on Monday, BREAKING RECORDS set during the Blizzard of 1978 and testing the patience of officials and commuters as forecasters warned of more winter misery later in the week.

Atmospheric Struggles to Avoid Snowing in Massachusetts - Even the quiet days in between big storms are producing snowflakes during the amazing siege of winter weather that’s brought parts of eastern New England to a near-standstill. Wednesday brought a whiff of ocean-effect snow, the less-common Atlantic counterpart to the lake-effect snow that often hits cities like Buffalo and Syracuse. Both phenomena are driven by cold air passing over relatively warm water.
Lake-effect snow is assisted by bands of converging air that develop when surface winds are aligned with the very linear lakes Erie and Ontario. The New England coast lacks such a geography, so ocean-effect snow is more RARE, developing only when the atmospheric structure is highly favorable. Temperatures early Wednesday were in the low 20s along the Massachusetts coast, but as cold as 10°F less than 3000 feet above the surface. This led to enough instability for very shallow clouds and light snow, especially over Cape Cod. A strong inversion above this layer kept the clouds from growing any deeper, putting a lid on more intense snow.
Boston’s Logan Airport recorded eight hours of light snow but only 0.5” of accumulation. Traces of snow were observed as far northwest as suburban Andover - falling under blue sky. "It was snowing lightly despite the fact that two-thirds of the sky was clear, and the southeastern third had just a thin cirrus overcast. On the very southeast horizon was some stratocumulus.”
New Englanders continue to grapple with the aftermath of three major snowstorms - Juno, Linus, and Marcus - in less than three weeks. Thursday’s ocean-effect snow pushed Boston’s total to 41.3” for the month - just 0.3” short of the February record - and 78.5” for the season. Since the first of the year, the city has set heaviest-snowfall records for intervals of 5, 7, 10, 14, 20, 30, and 40 days.
Upper levels across North America remain locked in a pattern that supports more nor’easters, with the polar jet stream diving southward from Canada across the Midwest, then arcing across New England. The next winter storm will intensify into a powerhouse east of New England on Thursday and Friday, with surface pressure deepening quickly enough (more than 24 mb in 24 hours) to qualify the nor’easter as a “bomb.”
It appears the storm will intensify just far enough out to sea to spare the coastline from anything more than continued ocean-effect snow. In its wake, though, the system will pull down another shot of frigid air across the Northeast, setting the stage for a potentially much more serious snow threat late in the weekend with the next nor’easter. Temperatures will be cold enough to support another event with high snow-to- liquid ratios, perhaps 20-to-1 or greater, and the most likely focal point once again appears to be from eastern Massachusetts to coastal Maine.
If the model trends continue, we could see rapid intensification of the surface low, with blizzard conditions and more than a foot of new snow quite possible over eastern New England (including the Boston area). While this week’s light snows mainly added insult to injury, a storm of the magnitude predicted by some model runs for this weekend could be a daunting blow to already-crippled parts of eastern Massachusetts.
A blizzard watch has been issued for Saturday evening through Sunday evening for coastal counties of northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, including the cities of Boston and Portland. Widespread accumulations of more than a foot are expected, with wind gusts to 50 - 60 mph, very cold temperatures and wind chills, and extensive blowing snow.
Winter’s coldest week coming up? The upper-level low that’s plagued New England is projected to sharpen and shift westward next week, tapping extremely cold Arctic air. Several strong surface highs will likely move into the central U.S., much as we saw in early January, but this time bearing even more frigid temperatures.
A band of significant snow, sleet, and/or freezing rain could materialize early next week from the mid- South to the mid-Atlantic. The GFS model, which has a cold bias on surface temperature, has pulled back from earlier predictions that would have approached all-time lows in some areas. In our warming winter climate, such records are increasingly hard to come by. Still, we can expect some daily records to be toppled or at least approached across much of the central and eastern U.S. over the next 7 to 10 days, with some brutal wind chills possible.
Already, wind chill advisories for values well below 0°F are in place across the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as much of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and western New England. Comparable warnings for extreme cold (wind chill) are in effect over much of Ontario and Quebec. The best chance for truly historic U.S. cold this weekend or early next week could be over the very deep snowpack of New England, where depths of 10” to 30” or more are now widespread.
On a cold, clear night, snow cover enhances the loss of heat from the ground as radiational cooling predominates (also dubbed nocturnal cooling). A deep snowpack also brings the “surface” closer to the height of weather instrument shelters, where thermometers are located 4 - 6 feet above ground level. Since temperatures are coldest just above the top of the snow on nights of strong radiational cooling, deep snow can act to reduce temperatures at thermometer height.
Such a setup in Oklahoma brought the nation’s most recent all-time state record low. A major winter storm dropped heavy snow across northeast Oklahoma on February 9, 2011, including a state-record 24-hour accumulation of 27” in the town of Spavinaw. The next morning, an Oklahoma Mesonet station in Nowata dipped to –31°F, breaking Oklahoma’s all-time record of –27°F (which had stood for 64 years). Just a week later, Nowata hit 75°F.


Epic Sandstorm Suffocates Middle East - For the third day in a row, the Middle East awoke Wednesday to the wind whipping and sand flying. And it’s only getting worse. A massive dust belt is moving from the Sahara Desert all the way up to Turkey.


Northwest Mystery Dirt May Be From Russian Volcano - People in Washington state, Oregon, and Idaho got a strange surprise a couple of days ago, when their cars and houses were covered with a strange dirty substance that fell from the sky during a rain shower. The event was sufficiently freaky that the National Weather Service’s Spokane office tweeted a picture, and said that it was collecting samples to send to a lab for analysis. Under a microscope, the same looks ever weirder.
Initially, NWS thought the dirt might be from a storm in Nevada, which also dumped what appears in photos to be an odd milky or gray-colored dust. But since then, even stranger hypotheses have emerged. The Walla Walla County, Wash. emergency management agency, for example, suggested on its Facebook page that the ash is likely from Volcano Shiveluch in Kamchatka Krai, Russia, some 4,000 miles away. Volcano Shiveluch spewed an ash plume about 22,000 feet high in late January. In that scenario, winds blew the dust across the northern Pacific, where it was picked up by a storm system in the U.S. Northwest and mixed with rain clouds.
Another possible explanation, offered by a CNN meteorologist, is that the dust is coming from the eruption last week of a volcano in southwestern Colima, Mexico, about 2,000 miles away from Washington state. Even though the Russian and Mexican volcanoes are thousands of miles away, it’s not that unusual for volcanic ash to be distributed far and wide across continents.
NWS also has suggested that the ash may be left over from wildfires in Oregon and Idaho last year.

Tests planned on mysterious 'milky rain' in U.S. Pacific Northwest - Scientists from two U.S. Pacific Northwest laboratories plan to conduct tests of unusual precipitation that fell across the region over the weekend in hopes of pinpointing the origins of so-called "milky rain" that has mystified residents, officials said on Wednesday.
Officials at both the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Benton Clean Air Agency, both in Washington state, said they had collected samples of the rain, which left a powdery residue on cars across a wide swath of the two states. Scientists at the Richland lab said they believe the rain may have carried volcanic ash from an erupting volcano in Japan, while the clean air agency said its staffers believe dust from central Oregon was the culprit.
The National Weather Service has said it believes the powdery rain was most likely a byproduct of dust storms hundreds of miles away in Nevada, although it could not rule out volcanic ash from Japan as a possible culprit. But the National Weather Service has also said it was not equipped to perform a chemical analysis of the rain that would be required to pinpoint its origins.
Wherever the milky precipitation came from, officials say they do not believe it poses any health risk. Air monitoring stations did not detect anything unusual while the rain was falling. "We don't have any reason to think there's anything wrong, but there's no reason not to be cautious if you're concerned. You may want to wash it off your car with water, rather than with your hands, and avoid touching it and breathing it in."
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