Monday, February 2, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**Three things in human life are important.  The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.**
Henry James

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -  

Yesterday, 2/1/15  -

Southern California's Water Supply Threatened By Next Major Quake - Research shows that a magnitude 7.8 quake on the San Andreas Fault could sever all four aqueducts at once, cutting off more than 70 percent of the water sustaining Southern California. That means millions of people are just one major earthquake away from drying out for a year or more.
Studies show it would take a year or more to rebuild the waterways, and during that time, the state's
economy would lose roughly $53 billion. That's bad news for Southern California companies.  But there's no way to bring water from the north without crossing this fault.
The LA Aqueduct crosses the San Andreas Fault in a large underground tunnel that will shift and crumble in a big quake. But a high-density polyethylene pipe could survive the force. "You can almost collapse this pipe in its entirety and still get water through this, and there are some examples of ductile pipes in similar types of fault rupture events in Turkey that actually did this." LA Water and Power wants to place this pipe in the existing tunnel to keep some water flowing after a major quake.
It's similar to what the San Francisco Bay Area did after its 1989 earthquake. "And we made it so that the pipeline could shift with the movement of the earth and that way it would minimize any damage." That project was paid for by a surcharge added to local water bills. LA is still looking for a way to fund its $10 million plan.
But shoring up tunnels is only part of the answer. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California also oversees one of the region's four aqueducts located south of LA. If it is destroyed, the Diamond Valley Lake reservoir, a man-made lake that houses water from Northern California, will come in handy. "This is Southern California's largest surface water reservoir. This reservoir is intended to supply about six months' worth of water supply."
The Water District also wants to stockpile construction supplies, so crews can quickly build a new waterway after a disaster. But it's not easy getting these big projects off the ground. "But because we are effectively sitting on a time bomb, we need to keep that in mind and get this done as soon as possible."


* In the South Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone Eunice is located approximately 945 nm southwest of Cocos Island.

* In the Southern Pacific -
ropical cyclone Ola is located approximately 209 nm west of Noumea, New Caledonia.

Philippine officials say the death toll has risen to 53 from Tropical Storm Jangmi, which caused landslides and floods in the central and southern parts of the country. Most of the deaths occurred last Tuesday as the storm moved away from southern Mindanao Island, where a day earlier its heavy rains closed highways and bridges.
Many local residents and authorities were caught off guard by the massive landslides that buried houses and vehicles under rocks and mud. Dozens of homes were destroyed. Many of the affected areas had not yet recovered from last year's Super Typhoon Haiyan, which was the strongest storm ever to hit the country. Haiyan killed more than 7,300 people and brought some of the strongest winds ever recorded on land. Thousands of its victims are still living in tents, a year after the storm hit.
The Southeast Asian nation has faced unusually severe typhoons in the past few years, including Typhoon Bopha in 2012, which left 1,900 people dead or missing.


Northeast U.S. braces for second major snowstorm in a week after a huge winter system dumped more than a foot (30 cm) of snow in the Chicago area, closing schools from the Midwest to New England. Chicago Public Schools, the country's third-largest public school system, closed along with districts in Detroit, Boston and Providence,
Rhode Island, canceled classes for Monday as the National Weather Service issued storm warnings and watches continued from western Iowa into upper New England.
The storm followed a blizzard last week that pummeled parts of the East Coast, especially New England states, where up to three feet (90 cm) of snow piled up. New York City had prepared for a major storm but was spared the brunt. Forecasts ranged from about three to six inches (7.6 to 15 cm) in New York City, where light snow began falling mid-evening on Sunday potentially complicating travel for millions of morning commuters, to well over a foot (30.5 cm) in Lowell, Massachusetts, a city north of Boston in an area that was walloped with 30 inches (76 cm) of snow less than a week ago.
A foot (30.5 cm) of snow was predicted for Boston, which was buried under two feet of snow on
Tuesday.Forecasters said snow was expected to fall as the rate of one to two inches (2.5 to 5 cm) per hour in southern New England at the storm's peak, making for extremely hazardous driving conditions. Significant accumulations from Albany, N.Y., to Maine were expected to be exacerbated by winds of up to 40 mph (65 kph). Bitter cold weather was also forecast to follow the snow across the country.


  Brazil, California Face Specter of Worsening Drought. The supply of water to many cities in the state of São Paulo has been hampered by the worst drought since 1930.
January has not been kind to two parched corners of the Americas. A large chunk of California’s San
Francisco Bay area is wrapping up the month with no measurable rainfall, a first for January since records began - all the way back to 1850 in the case of downtown San Francisco. This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor dataset shows 77.5% of California in the worst two categories of drought (extreme and exceptional), compared to 67.1% at this point last year.
There is still hope that February, March, or even April could bring a few wet storms to salvage the rainy season across central and southern California, but for now the atmosphere appears locked in this year’s version of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge that delivered severe drought and record heat to California in 2014. With virtually no chance of rain through Saturday, the January records looked certain to be broken (or tied, in the case of Redding).
The state of water supply is far more dire in the region around São Paulo, Brazil, which is the most
populous city in the Western Hemisphere and the third largest metropolitan area. The city’s 11 million residents, and the 20 million across the urbanized region, depend on a system of reservoirs that are perilously close to running completely dry in the midst of the region’s worst drought since at least 1930.
Almost half of the São Paulo metro area relies on the main reservoir system, Cantareira, which has slumped to just 5.1% of capacity as of January 29.  The crisis is affecting not only water access but power, since the region is highly dependent on hydroelectricity. Sporadic power cuts have been reported, and close to 100 cities have implemented some type of water rationing, affecting some 4 million people. There have also been reports of unofficial rationing in the São Paulo area itself.
Climatologically, rainfall is ample across this subtropical area, and unlike San Francisco, the São Paulo region hasn’t been completely bone-dry this month. Showers and thunderstorms have dropped modest amounts of rain on the city on about half of all days this month, totaling 4.21.” However, this is far short of the average monthly total for January of 13.76".
The latest rainfall forecasts for the region are not especially encouraging - the Friday Weather Underground forecast for Sao Paulo predicted near-average rains of about 2" for the coming week, and the Friday morning 12 UTC run of the GFS model predicted near-average rains of about 5" in the Sao Paulo region through mid-February.
Even assuming water can be found elsewhere in the region to help get the city through the immediate crisis, the impacts on power supply may continue to loom large. São Paulo sits more than 40 miles inland and 2600 feet above sea level, making desalination an impractical option. The Center for Climate Change and Security notes the major risks presented by the current drought as well as other droughts that could develop across Brazil in the coming decade and beyond.
Although the nation has made great strides in reducing deforestation over the last few years, the losses already incurred cut back on the ability of forests - especially those in the Amazon - to catch moisture and return it to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. Many studies have shown potential links between the loss of Amazon rainforest and regional droughts.
 No direct links have yet been made between the São Paulo drought and deforestation. However,
“because most of the water that irrigates the bread-basket quadrangle of southern South America originates from the Amazon, the future climate of the continent may be considerably dryer. In a
worst-case scenario, it would resemble present-day Australia: a vast desert interior fringed on one side by strips of wetter areas near the sea.”


  Unusual number of UK flowers bloom - Botanists have been stunned by the results of their annual hunt for plants in flower on New Year’s Day. They say according to textbooks there should be between 20 and 30 species in flower. This year there were 368 in bloom.
It raises further questions about the effects of climate change during the UK’s warmest year on record. “This is extraordinary. Fifty years ago people looking for plants in flower at the start of the year found 20 species. This year the total has amazed us – we are stunned. During the holiday I drove along the A34 south of Newbury and saw half a mile of gorse in flower when gorse is supposed to flower in April and May. It’s bizarre.
“We are now in our fourth mild winter. Normally flowers get frosted off by Christmas but this year it hasn’t happened.”  368 species in flower is an UNPRECEDENTED 15% of the flowering plants in Britain and Ireland – an “amazing” total. The high count was partly due to the growth in the number of volunteers - but mostly due to climate change.
It was possible that plants in unseasonal flower might be badly hit if February bring very cold weather. The Met Office has confirmed 2014 as the warmest year on UK record, with the wettest winter and the hottest Halloween. It is also the warmest year in the Met Office’s Central England Temperature series, which dates to 1659.
The most commonly recorded plants in flower were daisy and dandelion, each of which was recorded in 115 lists (75%). The mild south and west of Britain had the highest numbers of species still in flower, but there were 50 species identified in the east and north of England, and 39 species flowering in Edinburgh. In absolute numbers, Cardiff won with 71 species in flower and Cornwall came second with 70 species in flower.
 “It was astonishing to see so many records flooding in, from Guernsey to the Moray Firth and Norfolk to Donegal. Ireland had consistently high numbers of plants in flower too, with the average of about 20 – almost exactly on a par with Britain.”

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