Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**The secrets to successful aging are simply to show up, do your best, ask for help when you need it and give yourself some slack if some things don't get done or if they fall through the cracks. It also helps to look past the clutter and laugh at the mess life makes for us sometimes.**
Bob Ramsey

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or larger.

Yesterday, 3/9/15 -

4.6M earthquake causes minor damage in western Serbia - A 4.6 magnitude earthquake with the epicenter near Kosjeric, and 15 kilometers south of Valjevo, in western Serbia, was registered at 21:47 CET on Sunday. The 30-second earthquake that was preceded by what was described as "a loud bang" was felt throughout the country.
In the village of Mrcici at the epicenter, about 100 houses have been damaged, but that it is not the total, since some parts of that area are under heavy snow cover and still inaccessible. The damage was done mostly to chimneys and roofs on older houses, and minor damage was also reported at the Culture Center and the municipal building in Kosjeric itself. The Kosjeric region registered another tremor after midnight, this one measuring 2.5 in magnitude. Four days earlier, the area was affected by a 2.7M quake.

South Asia - Over a one-year period from May 2013 to May 2014, there were a total of 1,247 recorded earthquake events of 4.0 magnitude or higher. "It's time to get prepared. With over 600 million people living along the fault-line across the Himalayan belt, South Asia’s earthquake exposure is very high.
To further compound the problem, South Asia is urbanizing at a rapid pace and a significant growth in mega- cities, secondary and tertiary cities / towns is happening in high risk seismic zones. The region has experienced three large events over the past 15 years - the Bhuj earthquake of 2001, the Sumatra earthquake of 2004 (leading to the Asian tsunami) and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.
While there have been no major earthquakes these past 9 years, the region is akin to a ticking bomb for an earthquake disaster. Keeping this in mind, we mapped a region of 3000 Km radius from the center of India and analyzed earthquake events over a one-year period from May 2013 to May 2014. Only those earthquakes recorded by the United States Geological Survey’s global earthquake monitoring database (USGS) greater than 4.0 magnitude on the Richter scale were considered. We found a total of 1,247 recorded earthquake events. The story of a 1000 earthquakes was born and was a story that needed to be told.
We decided to create a video that would become an awareness tool and effectively communicate the risk the region faces. We deliberately steered away from talking about work being undertaken to reduce seismic risks or policy mechanisms that can be adopted. There are other mechanisms, mediums and opportunities to take that agenda forward. This is a short 90 seconds video and hopefully communicates the urgency of investing resources and efforts into earthquake safety. Increase the volume, enjoy, get scared. and then be prepared!" (video at link)

250,000 Japanese still displaced 4 years after massive quake and tsunami - Radiation levels remain as much as 10 times above normal in areas surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant, and scores of towns and villages remain off-limits despite a massive cleanup effort. "At first, I thought we would be gone a few days or weeks. Now, I'm not sure if we will ever go back."
As Japan marks the anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disaster, officials concede that recovery throughout the region is lagging. Nearly a quarter-million Japanese still live in temporary or interim housing. Hundreds of square miles of forests, farmland and townships remain uninhabitable because of radiation. Endless rows of thick vinyl bags filled with contaminated soil litter the countryside — but represent just a fraction of the land that must be scraped up and hauled away before residents can return.
At the stricken power plant, radiation is no longer escaping into the air, but workers are still battling to contain leaks of contaminated water. The plant won't be fully decommissioned for at least three decades. Mercifully, no one has been killed by the radiation, and no illnesses have been traced to the leaks, so far. Yet even in areas declared safe, many evacuees are reluctant to return. They harbor a deep mistrust of officials after conflicting or hesitant evacuation orders early in the crisis, radiation readings that shift with wind and rain, and disagreements over the risks of long-term, low-level exposure.
"The situation is not finished at all. We are moving ahead, but it will take another 30 years, probably more. This is going to be a long, uphill battle." The magnitude-9.0 earthquake was the largest ever to strike Japan. It triggered a surge of water as high as 90 feet in some areas, washing away entire towns and communities along Japan's northeast coast, killing nearly 16,000 people. More than 2,600 are still listed as missing.
The one-two punch crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant and triggered a meltdown in three of its six nuclear reactors. The ensuing plume of radiation triggered full or partial evacuation of an area more than 18 miles away. Much progress has been made over the past four years. Virtually all quake and tsunami debris has been hauled away. Tens of thousands of temporary homes have been built. An interim storage facility opened in February that will accommodate the tens of millions of cubic yards of soil slated for removal.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which harshly criticized the plant's initial reaction to the radiation leaks, issued guarded praise last month for recent progress toward decommissioning the reactors. Even so, a staggering amount of work remains. Completion of permanent housing for 230,000 evacuees has been pushed back to 2017 in some areas because of difficulty finding suitable land and shortages of construction workers and materials.
The toll of the disaster is evident in Iitate village. Government policy currently calls for decontaminating all homes and buildings in affected areas, as well as all farmland. But wooded areas will be left untouched. So residents and local officials will have to decide the level of exposure they are comfortable accepting. "People still do not understand everything about radiation and long-term exposure. Some people think it's safe at a certain level, but others don't. Are you OK as long as you don't enter the forest? If you have children, are you willing to take that chance? I understand that people are reluctant to return."
Residents may not be able to return to Iiwate village for three to five more years — if then. "There won't be a lot shops or services operating in these areas. There are no hospitals or markets nearby, so it's going to be very difficult to live there."

Costa Rica - Four ash explosions recorded at Turrialba volcano on Sunday. Following two weeks of low activity, the Turrialba volcano, located 67 kilometers northeast of San José, on Sunday registered four explosions between 1:40 p.m. and 3:17 p.m. The explosions were recorded at 1:41 p.m., 2:45 p.m., 3:05 p.m. and 3:17 p.m. White fumaroles also were registered by webcams at Turrialba and at Irazú volcano north of Cartago.
The first explosion formed an ash plume that reached some 500 meters (some 1,600 feet) above the volcano’s summit. The other explosions also spewed vapor and ash into the air and formed fumaroles of some 300 meters (984 feet). “The ash column was headed northwest. Some seismic activity also was recorded following the ash emissions."
Turrialba volcano has been active since last Oct. 29 when it started spewing ash and vapor that reached five cantons in Cartago and as far away as the provinces of San José, Heredia and Limón. At the time, ash was visible on rooftops, windows and cars, but it mostly affected dairies and farms north of Cartago. Last February 11, columns of vapor and gas formed a 1.5-kilometer fumarole (4,900 feet). (photo and video at link)

Iceland - Last week marked the end of the nearly 6 months of eruption from the Holuhraun lava field between Barðarbunga and Askja in Iceland. The eruption was the largest in Iceland for over 200 years, dumping more than 1.4 cubic kilometers of basaltic lava over the barren landscape. Along with the lava came unprecedented subsidence of the floor within the Barðarbunga caldera, an event that had never been observed (or measured precisely with GPS) in Iceland. In all senses of the word, this was a historic eruption, both in terms of its volcanic significance and the instant worldwide media sensation the eruption became.
The crater is still a hot place — some of the cracks at the bottom of the crater are still 500-600ºC (which suggests that magma might only be 3-5 meters / 9-15 feet below the surface). There are also still many active vents releasing sulfur dioxide (and more), giving the area a blue haze when the winds are calm. You can pick out some of the zones where hot gases has escaped because they are coated with light colored minerals.
The interior of the crater once was the home of a small lava lake and you can see some of the evidence of levels of the lava lake in the crater. A “bathtub ring” is left at the high stand of the lake (along with some levels as it drained). The surface of the lake solidified before the interior, so it was somewhat rigid as the lake drained, so the sagged and broken skin of the lake is evident as well. The Holuhraun eruption may be over (but still bubbling not far beneath the surface), but the features that it created across Iceland’s landscapes will likely last for thousands and thousands of year … at least until ice covers the area again or a new eruption buries the evidence of this historic event.


* In the South Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone Haliba was located approximately 103 nm south of St Denis, La Reunion.

* In the South Pacific -
Tropical cyclone Pam was located approximately 678 nm northwest of Suva, Fiji.
Two tropical cyclones - one potentially severe - could form off the northern Australian coast this week from two developing tropical low pressure systems. One low is forming in the Coral Sea, south of Papua New Guinea while another is forming in the Indian Ocean, south of Indonesia.
The Indian Ocean low is likely to reach cyclone strength by Thursday or Friday and later hit Western Australia as a severe cyclone. "The timing is a bit variable but the conditions are very favourable. It's the right time of the year and everything is set up for it. It looks like it will be a severe tropical cyclone [category three or above] and all the models are bringing it close to the WA coast but that could be anywhere south of Karratha at this stage."
The Coral Sea low is east of Cooktown and is likely to drift west and intensify this week. "It may cross the east coast of the Cape York Peninsula as a tropical cyclone later this week. I would stress that it's very early in the situation for but the favoured scenario is that it will develop over the coming days and make landfall around Cooktown, certainly north of Cairns, later this week and potentially as a tropical cyclone."
Heavy rain from the system would be compounded as it also draws south the active monsoon trough, delivering solid falls as far south as Townsville. "Townsville has had a very dry wet season - 250 millimetres over the wet season. It usually gets about 600 or 700 millimetres over the summer period. I think this rainfall, if they get it, will be very welcome." The cyclones, if both form, will be named Nathan and Olwyn.


Texas - Rain making system arrives with El Niño, but is there a connection? The Climate Prediction Center announced last week the formation of El Niño conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. While today’s rain making storm system over Texas originated in the Pacific, a direct link to the ocean phenomenon is uncertain. But, because of the pattern, the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a wetter than normal spring for Central Texas.
An El Niño develops when unusually warm ocean temperatures begin to influence weather patterns. That connection last developed in Central Texas during the winter of 2009-2010. Since that time, historic drought conditions developed across Texas as two consecutive La Niña cycles (opposite of El Niño) formed. The El Niño cycle typically brings Texas wetter and colder than normal winters, but the impacts tend to wane during the spring and summer. While not all El Niño months are big rain-makers for Central Texas, some have resulted in record rainfall and flooding, filling area lakes.
The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon linked to a periodic warming in sea-surface temperatures across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the date line and 120oW). El Niño represents the warm phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, and is sometimes referred to as a Pacific warm episode.
The term El Niño was originally used by fishermen along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru to refer to a warm ocean current that typically appears around Christmastime and lasts for several months. Fish are less abundant during these warm intervals, so fishermen often take a break to repair their equipment and spend time with their families. In some years, however, the water is especially warm and the break in the fishing season persists into May or even June. Over the years, the term “El Niño” has come to be reserved for these exceptionally strong warm intervals that not only disrupt the normal lives of the fishermen, but also bring heavy rains.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, which is part of the National Weather Service, declares the onset of an El Niño episode when the 3-month average sea-surface temperature departure exceeds 0.5oC in the east-central equatorial Pacific.


Pollution in China may be partially to blame for snowy US winters - A number of extreme weather events, from cold snaps to storms, have hit the US in recent years - and though climate change is the usual suspect, NASA physicists believe there's another source of trouble. Pollution in China may be playing a hand in the elements' odd behaviors.
"Over the past 30 years or so, man-made emission centers have shifted from traditional industrialized countries to fast, developing countries in Asia." The particles produced there rise into the atmosphere and get picked up by the jet stream. Once globally airborne, they can impact cloud development and storm systems.
Among the most significant that are intensified by the pollutants are those that hover around the North Pacific. Those, in turn, could well be influencing the movements of the polar jet stream across the US, which as its name implies, carries cold and sometimes unbearable weather around. Though the researchers haven't determined the full extent of such activity, they have made a link between its history and that of industrialization in Asia. The events coincide with the boom in coal-fueled enterprises operating on the continent.


Arctic Sea Ice Plunges to RECORD LOW Extent for Late Winter - Instead of easing toward its typical March maximum in coverage, the Arctic’s sea ice appears to be more inclined toward getting a head start on its yearly summer melt-out. As of Sunday, March 8, Arctic sea ice as calculated by Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research extended across 13.65 million square kilometers. This value is more than 450,000 sq km - roughly the size of California - below the record extent for the date.
Even more striking is the consistency of the ice loss over the last couple of weeks. March is often a time of rapid gains and losses in ice cover, as seasonal warming and melting battle it out with quick refreezing when shots of cold air return. This year, the ice extent peaked on February 15 at 13.94 million sq km, and it looks increasingly unlikely that the ice will manage to return to that very early peak over the next couple of weeks.
No season in the Japanese database has fallen short of the 14-million mark, so if the February peak stands, it will mark the lowest maximum in the Arctic since satellite monitoring began in 1979. Not only is Arctic sea ice essential to many ecosystems: it serves as a powerful tracer of recent warming, and its absence in summer allows open water to absorb much more heat from sunlight. While the ice has seen some modest recovery in recent years, it has failed to fully mend the fabric torn by the record-setting drop of 2007. The overall thickness of the ice, and the fraction that’s survived for multiple years (multiyear ice), have both suffered major losses.
A comprehensive survey just published found that ice thickness in the central Arctic dropped by 65 percent from 1975 to 2012. Experts differ strongly on when we might see a summer that melts nearly all of the Arctic’s ice (typically defined as less than a million sq km of extent by the normal September minimum). Computer models suggest this point might not be reached till the 2040s or later, while simple extrapolation from recent years would produce an effectively ice-free September by the 2020s, perhaps even sooner. Sea ice around Antarctica has increased somewhat in recent years, but that ice plays a vastly different role in global and regional climate.
Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook