Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**If we choose to constantly focus on what makes us unhappy in life, then we'll always be unhapppy.**
Steven Aitchison

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or larger.

Yesterday, 3-10-15 -

6.2 Quake Shakes Colombia; No Initial Reports of Damage - A strong earthquake shook eastern Colombia on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway in the capital and elsewhere but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The quake had a magnitude of 6.2 and was centered near the city of Bucaramanga, about 175 miles (280 kilometers) north of Bogota. It was reported to be 91 miles (147 kilometers) deep and shook buildings across the Caribbean coast as well as western Venezuela.
The government palace in the eastern city of Cucuta suffered structural damages and two communications towers had been knocked out of service. In Barrancabermeja, bricks from the roof of the city's main church fell to the ground. The city's oil refinery, the country's biggest, was unaffected.
In Bogota, whose residents are accustomed to earthquakes despite Colombia's location in a seismically-active area, office workers poured into the streets after being told to evacuate tall buildings. Photos of fallen roof tiles from the city's new airport circulated.

Chance of Mega-Quake Hitting California Increases - Estimates of the chance of a magnitude 8.0 or greater earthquake hitting California in the next three decades have been raised from about 4.7% to 7%. Scientists are virtually certain that California will be rocked by a strong earthquake in the next 30 years. Now they say the risk of a mega-quake is more likely than previously thought.
The chance of a magnitude-8 quake striking the state in the next three decades jumped to 7 percent from 4.7 percent, mainly because scientists took into account the possibility that several faults can shake at once, releasing seismic energy that results in greater destruction. While the risk of a mega-quake is higher than past estimates, it's more likely — greater than 99 percent chance — that California will be rattled by a magnitude-6.7 jolt similar in size to the 1994 Northridge disaster.
The chance of a Northridge-size quake was slightly higher in Northern California than Southern California — 95 percent versus 93 percent. "California is earthquake country, and residents should live every day like it could be the day of a big one." The latest seismic calculations largely mirror previous findings issued by the USGS in 2008. Back then, scientists also determined that California faced an almost certain risk of experiencing a Northridge-size quake.
The new report included newly discovered fault zones and the possibility that a quake can jump from fault to fault. Because of this knowledge, the odds of a catastrophic quake — magnitude 8 or larger — in the next 30 years increased. There is a 93 percent chance of a magnitude 7 or larger occurring over the same period and a 48 percent chance of a magnitude 7.5 — similar to previous estimates.
Thousands of quakes every year hit California, sandwiched between two of Earth's major tectonic plates, the Pacific and North American plates. Most are too small to be felt. Of the more than 300 faults that crisscross the state, the southern segment of the San Andreas Fault — which runs from central California to the Salton Sea near the U.S.-Mexico border — remains the greatest threat because it hasn't ruptured in more than three centuries.
The report found there is a 19 percent chance in the next 30 years that a Northridge-size quake will unzip the southern section compared to a 6.4 percent chance for the northern section, partly because it last broke in 1906. The southern San Andreas is "ready to have an earthquake because it's really locked and loaded." The report is a forecast, but it is not a prediction. Experts still cannot predict exactly where or when a quake will hit anywhere in the world.
In recent years, the USGS and several universities have been testing an early warning system designed to detect the first waves of a jolt and send out an alert before the slower-moving damaging waves. Proponents have said a few seconds of notice can allow trains to slow down, utilities to shut off gas lines and people to duck for cover. The public alert system — still in pilot phrase — needs more funding before it can be rolled out statewide.

Air traffic under threat in Kamchatka, Russia, fearing volcano eruption - A code of high threat to air traffic has been enforced in Kamchatka in Russian Far East following discharge of volcanic ashes by two Kamchatka volcanoes simultaneously on Tuesday.
A cloud of gas-ash particles rising above the Kluchevsky and Zhupanovsky volcanoes is nearly five kilometers high. A tail of ashes from the Zhupanovsky volcano has spread to a distance of 187 kilometers east of the volcano, and the ash tail from the other one has spread 92 kilometers southeast.
The Zhupanovsky volcano is situated 100 kilometers north of the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The other volcano is situated barely 30 kilometers from the settlement of Klyuchi of the Ust-Kamchatsky district.

Iceland - There are indications that the caldera of Bárðarbunga volcano, which fed the Holuhraun eruption, has begun rising again. The rising of the caldera could mean that magma is accumulating in the magma chamber, building pressure, which might eventually lead to another eruption.
It can be caused by two things: (A) The ice below the sensor is flowing into the depression … (B) The caldera has started rising again because magma from the mantle is flowing into the magma chamber below Bárðarbunga. I’m inclined to believe the latter explanation, but time will tell. If (B) is correct, it is likely that the flow of magma from the depths into the magma chamber will take many years before it reaches the position which Bárðarbunga had before the eruption which began in 2014."
Other scientists have predicted that Bárðarbunga will erupt again in the near future and that the eruption in Holuhraun was the first in a series. The eruption carried on while the caldera subsided and magma flowed out of the magma chamber and into the intrusive dike connecting Bárðarbunga, which lies under Vatnajökull glacier, with Holuhraun north of the glacier.


* In the Southern Pacific -
- Tropical cyclone Pam is located approximately 696 nm north-northeast of Noumea, New Caledonia.

- Tropical cyclone Nathan is located approximately 212 nm north of Cairns, Australia.
In the South Pacific Ocean about 1,800 miles east of Australia, Tropical Cyclone Pam has quickly intensified to a Category 1 storm with top sustained winds of 90 mph as of 8 am EDT Tuesday. Pam has generated quite a bit of hype over the past few days, thanks to eye-popping model projections by the GFS and European models which show the cyclone intensifying into a Category 5 monster with a central pressure less than 880 mb by late this week.
If this forecast verifies, it would make Pam one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, world- wide. However, these models are not known for making reliable intensity forecasts, and are generally disregarded by NHC for intensity forecasts in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific. The HWRF model, which is one of our better intensity forecast models, predicted that Pam would reach a central pressure of 902 mb by Friday, which would make it a still-formidable Category 5 cyclone.
Pam is an UNUSUALLY LARGE cyclone over extremely deep warm water, with widespread surface temperatures above 30°C (86°F). With wind shear a moderate 10 - 20 knots and expected to be in the low to moderate range this week, Pam should be able to undergo a period of rapid intensification into at least a Category 4 storm. Fortunately, no major populated areas are in the projected path of Pam, although a westward shift in track could threaten the islands of Vanuatu.

RARE subtropical depression off the coast of Brazil - A rare subtropical depression, with characteristics of both a tropical and a non-tropical system, has formed in the South Atlantic waters off the coast of Brazil. Sea surface temperatures are near 27°C, which is about 0.5°C above average, and 1°C above what is typically needed to support a tropical storm.
By Thursday the storm will begin losing its tropical characteristics as it moves over cooler waters, and it is unlikely the storm has time to become fully tropical. The unnamed storm is not a threat to make landfall. Tropical and subtropical storms are so rare in the South Atlantic that until 2011, there was no official naming of depressions or storms done.
In 2011, the Brazilian Navy Hydrographic Center instituted a naming system with nine names, of which two have been used so far (Arani in 2011, and Bapo in 2015.) If this week’s storm becomes a subtropical storm, it will be called Carl. Brazil has had only one landfalling tropical cyclone in its history, Cyclone Catarina of March 2004.
Catarina is one of fewer than ten tropical or subtropical storms to form in the South Atlantic, and the only one to reach hurricane strength. An unnamed February 2006 storm may have attained wind speeds of 65 mph, and a subtropical storm brought heavy flooding to the coast of Uruguay in January 2009, killing fourteen people. Tropical cyclones rarely form in the South Atlantic Ocean, due to strong upper-level wind shear, cool water temperatures, and the lack of an initial disturbance to get things spinning (no African waves or Intertropical Convergence Zone exist in the proper locations in the South Atlantic to help spawn tropical storms).

Big hurricanes reached U.S. during prehistoric periods of ocean warming - Intense hurricanes, possibly more powerful than any storms New England has experienced in recorded history, frequently pounded the region during the first millennium, from the peak of the Roman Empire into the height of the Middle Ages, according to a new study.
A new record of sediment deposits from Cape Cod, Mass., show evidence that 23 severe hurricanes hit New England between the years 250 and 1150, the equivalent of a severe storm about once every 40 years on average. Many of these hurricanes were likely more intense than any that have hit the area in recorded history, according to the study.
The prehistoric hurricanes were likely category three storms – like Hurricane Katrina - or category four storms – like Hurricane Hugo - that would be catastrophic if they hit the region today.


'Icebergs' wash ashore on Cape Cod - Forget frozen waves. The historic winter of 2015 — which has dumped 105.7 inches of snow in Boston, 2.2 inches shy of the snowiest ever — is leaving mini ”icebergs” on the shores of Cape Cod.
Sseveral giant chunks of ice washed up on the Cape Cod National Seashore in Wellfleet over the weekend. The spectacle is probably a “once-in-a-generation” event due to the extraordinary amount of ice on the Massachusetts Bay.
Last month, a surfer and photographer captured images of another once-in-a-generation kind of event: photos of waves on Nantucket turning to slush. “When I got to the top of the dunes, I could see that about 300 yards out from the shoreline the ocean was starting to freeze. They were perfect, dreamy slush waves.” The oddity even impressed a University of Alaska glaciologist. “I have never seen frozen waves like this. Cold but calm water is what normally freezes easiest.” (photos at link)


Chile is facing an eight-year dry spell that has left fruit withered, miners grappling for enough water to run plants and the forestry industry facing some of the worst wildfires in the last century.

Canada - Lots of records were broken all over British Columbia on Monday because of the high temperatures that blanketed the province. There were 11 records broken including one in Kelowna. On Monday the temperature in Kelowna reached 18.6 degrees and the old record from 2005 which was 17.8 degrees was broken. Penticton also set a weather record on March 9th with a new high of 18.1 degrees. The old record was set in 2013 and was 17.3 degrees. A record was also broken in Summerland with a high of 18.1 degrees, the old record was 16.6 degrees in 2005.


There’s a calm across the U.S.’s tornado-prone regions, a quietness that seems odd when you consider the calendar. Through March 9, the U.S. has racked up only 28 preliminary tornado reports, compared to an average of 95 for the same time span (Jan. 1 to Mar. 9) during the years 2000 – 2014.
We’ve had quiet starts to tornado seasons before - in 2002, there’d been only 5 tornadoes by this point in the year - but 2015 stands out even more for its utter lack of strong thunderstorms. The dearth of severe weather comes into focus when we look beyond tornadoes. Through March 9, we’ve seen 119 preliminary reports of severe wind, compared to a 15-year average of 708.
Even more striking is the almost-complete absence of large hailstones. The 15-year average up to this point in the year is 362 reports of severe hail (at least 1” in diameter), but in 2015 thus far, we’ve had only two such reports, both occuring in northern Louisiana on Feb. 1.
It’s pretty easy to see what’s caused the severe-weather drought of early 2015. A stubborn upper-level trough over Hudson Bay has kept northwest flow dominant across the eastern half of the country, shunting potentially unstable air masses well out to sea before they have a chance to generate thunderstorms. Even high-contrast fronts, like the one that plowed through the South last week, haven’t enough upper-level support ahead of the cold air in order to produce severe weather.
The large-scale patterns have been so clear-cut that even the ambiguity that might prompt a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch has been in short supply. So far this year, SPC has issued just four watches (all tornado watches). This is the latest we’ve gone without at least one severe thunderstorm watch, and the lowest total number of watches through March 9, in records that go back to 1970. On average, more than 30 watches have been issued by this point. The first nine days of March 2015 didn’t see a single severe weather report or a single watch; no March in the official record has gone past March 10 without at least one watch.
Variability in tornado seasons is increasing - After the catastrophic tornado season of 2011, which took more than 550 U.S. lives, the pendulum swung hard in the other direction. The period 2012 – 2014 saw the fewest tornadoes of any three-year period going back to 1950, when reliable tornado records began. As for 2015, the odds appear slim for any major severe outbreaks in the U.S. over at least the next week.
It’s important to remember that a season that gets off to a slow start can still become active by spring. And even a below-average season, such as 2013, can feature a few devastating days, such as the deadly outbreaks in late May 2013 that struck in and near Shawnee, Moore, and El Reno, Oklahoma.
If it seems like tornado seasons are getting more variable, your impression is backed up by research. Looking only at twisters with at least F1/EF1 strength on the Fujita/Enhanced Fujita damage scale, the study found that the number of days with at least one F1/EF1 tornado has dropped since the 1980s, while the number of days with at least 30 such tornadoes has risen dramatically. As a result, twisters are becoming more concentrated into a few high-intensity days each year.
About 20% of all tornadoes in the decade 2004 - 2013 occurred on the three biggest days of each year, whereas this was the case for only 10% of all tornadoes before that decade. The reasons behind the shift aren’t yet clear, but the authors observe, “If the variability continues to increase, it could lead to an even greater concentration of tornadoes on fewer days.”
Seasonal timing is becoming more variable too, according to the study. For example, in all but three years from 1954 to 1996, the 50th F1/EF1 tornado of the year was reported between March 1 and April 10. But in the subsequent period (1997 – 2013), just 6 of 17 years saw the 50th twister occur in that early-spring interval, which implies that seasons are getting off to faster and/or slower starts.

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook